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Monday, April 24 2017

This morning. House and Senate committees debated and passed bills that repeal Florida’s no fault auto insurance law.

House Bill 1063 by Rep. Erin Grall passed the Commerce Committee, its last committee of reference, by a vote of 22–5. It’s now headed to the floor so the full House of Representatives can debate and vote on the proposal. Senate Bill 1766 by Senator Tom Lee passed its first committee of reference, Banking and Insurance, by a vote of 8–1. 

The bills are very different at this point, BUT procedurally two steps closer to passage.

The House bill:

  • Repeals PIP and replaces it with mandatory bodily injury with 25/50 limits.
  • Effective January 1, 2018.

The Senate bill:

  • Repeals PIP, effective January 1, 2018.
  • Mandates medical payments coverage of $5,000.
  • Mandates bodily injury coverage with 20/40 limits, beginning January 1, 2018.
  • Mandates bodily injury coverage with 25/50 limits, beginning January 1, 2020.
  • Mandates bodily injury coverage with 30/60 limits, beginning January 1, 2022.
  • Retains the $10,000 financial responsibility requirement for property damage.

It’s still very difficult to predict whether or not PIP repeal passes this year, but the idea certainly has a lot more traction than in previous years.

Thursday, April 20 2017

Florida drivers are among the most dangerous menaces on the road, ranking second worst in the nation for being distracted while behind the wheel, according to a study of driving habits.

Florida’s score was 49th, ahead of only Louisiana in a state-by-state analysis which indicated that 92 percent of U.S. drivers with cell phones use them while moving in a car.

“Those are shocking numbers proving we have a lot of careless and complacent drivers out there,” said Ryan Ruffing, director of communications for EverQuote, which collected the data. “Traffic fatalities have increased the past two years and phone use is a primary reason.”

Florida’s notoriously bad drivers ranked 39th in overall driving safety, while up in Montana’s wide open spaces, drivers ranked No. 1. By region, Midwesterners are the safest drivers, confirming their reputation as the nicest Americans, while edgy Northeasterners negotiating the roads of their dense cities are the least safe. Southern drivers use their phones the most, on 41 percent of all trips.

On the other end of the spectrum from phone-addicted Floridians are Vermonters, who rank as the nation’s least distracted drivers. They live in the second least-populous state.

It’s never a good time to text, talk, type, tweet, surf, chat, check Facebook or take selfies in the car, but especially not during April, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s also the spring session of the Florida Legislature, where lawmakers are considering bills that would toughen phone use penalties.

Florida is one of only four states that does not make texting while driving a primary offense, which means that police cannot cite drivers for texting unless they stop them for another infraction, such as speeding. Texting has been a secondary offense in Florida since 2013.

One bill that would toughen penalties is sponsored by state Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and has received heavy lobbying from Miami high school junior Mark Merwitzer, who is particularly concerned about his distracted teen peers. The American Automobile Association recommends a ban on wireless devices for all drivers under age 18.

It’s no coincidence that states with strict laws — such as Vermont — have the lowest distracted driving rates, Ruffing said.

“It seems clear that law enforcement is effective because there is a correlation between the prohibition of phone use and safer driving,” Ruffing said.

If you think you can text or check emails and still maintain control of your car, you are wrong. Each day in the U.S., eight people are killed and 1,161 are injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you think using your phone does not impair cognitive function, you are wrong again. If texting distracts you for five seconds at 55 mph, you are essentially driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Phone use causes a lingering diversion or “latency effect” for 27 seconds after you’ve stopped texting or talking, according to research by the American Automobile Association, which cautions that “distracted driving is deadly behavior, and hands-free does not mean brain-free.” AAA found that 60 percent of teen crashes are caused by distracted driving.

“Our horrible traffic, the awful accidents you see everywhere — so much of it is due to texting,” said Carmen Caldwell, who has lived in South Florida for 50 years. She is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade County and forbids her staff members from texting on the road. “It can take me an hour to drive the four miles from work in Doral to home in Hialeah. My brother lives in Idaho and he thinks I’m kidding. Today I was behind a fool in a Mercedes on the Palmetto driving with the left hand and texting with the right.

“Part of our issue here is that we have a lot of drivers from a lot of other countries.”

Ruffing said 96 percent of drivers believe they are safe drivers, but 56 percent of them admitted to phone use, creating an “awareness gap.”

“It only takes a second to cause a wreck and it’s frightening that people think they have it under control,” Caldwell said. “Police officers should be able to stop someone for texting the same way they can stop you for not wearing your seatbelt.”

One way to prevent distracted driving is to pressure the driver to stop using the phone, according to research commissioned by AT&T that revealed 57 percent of people will not text if a friend or passenger asks them not to do it. AT&T has launched two campaigns to encourage drivers to change what many admit is a compulsion. Take the pledge at Or load the free AT&T DriveMode app to break the texting habit.

“Our goal with the It Can Wait public awareness campaign and #TagYourHalf is to help save lives,” said AT&T spokesperson Kelly Layne Starling. “And now more than ever, we’re calling on the public, law enforcement, educators, retailers, corporations, consumer safety groups and more to join the movement to help raise awareness of the dangers of smartphone use behind the wheel.”

EverQuote collected data on 2.7 million trips and 230 million miles driven with its EverDrive app that encourages safe driving and improved driving skills by scoring drivers on phone use, speeding, risky acceleration, hard braking and hard turns.

Tuesday, April 18 2017

You are a driver for a transportation network company and then the unfortunate happens. Someone sideswipes your vehicle. In the chaotic moments after the accident, a question about your personal auto insurance coverage arises. Are you fully covered for ridesharing?

Perhaps not, GEICO warns.

“If you are driving for a rideshare company with a personal auto insurance policy, you might be taking a huge risk,” said Othello Powell, GEICO director of commercial lines. “Most personal auto policies were never designed to protect you or your vehicle for commercial purposes.”

A typical personal auto policy contains coverage gaps and limitations for ridesharing and package delivery. If an accident does happen with drivers’ personal auto policies, they have to provide their insurance carriers with specific details, including the phase of the ride they were in, said GEICO in a statement.

For example: Was the app on or off? Was the vehicle carrying any passengers or packages? Depending on the answers, drivers may not have the coverage they thought they had, GEICO said.

Tuesday, April 11 2017

Colorado State University hurricane researchers are predicting a slightly below-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2017, citing the potential development of El Niño as well as recent anomalous cooling in the tropical Atlantic as primary factors.

The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 11 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. Of those, researchers expect four to become hurricanes and two to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

The team bases its forecasts on 60 years of historical data that include Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.

So far, the 2017 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1957, 1965, 1972, 1976, and 2002. “The years 1957, 1965, 1976 and 2002 had slightly below-average hurricane activity, while 1972 was a well below-average season,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report.

The team predicts that 2017 hurricane activity will be about 85 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2016’s hurricane activity was about 135 percent of the average season.

Recently, the Tropical Meteorology Project team expanded to include Michael Bell, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science. William Gray launched the report in 1984 and continued to be an author on them until his death last year.

Landfall Probability

The report also includes the probability of major hurricanes making landfall:

  • 42 percent for the entire U.S. coastline (average for the last century is 52 percent)
  • 24 percent for the U.S. East Coast including the Florida peninsula (average for the last century is 31 percent)
  • 24 percent for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for the last century is 30 percent)
  • 34 percent for the Caribbean (average for the last century is 42 percent)

The forecast team also tracks the likelihood of tropical storm-force, hurricane-force and major hurricane-force winds occurring at specific locations along the coastal United States, the Caribbean and Central America through its Landfall Probability website. The site provides information for all coastal states as well as 11 regions and 205 individual counties along the U.S. coastline from Brownsville, Texas, to Eastport, Maine. Landfall probabilities for regions and counties are adjusted based on the current climate and its projected effects on the upcoming hurricane season.

Wednesday, April 05 2017

Directors and officers liability policies are likely to become broader and continue getting cheaper in 2017. This is among the likely trends expected for the financial and professional liability insurance marketplace in the months ahead, insurance broker Marsh said in a new report, “The U.S. Financial and Professional Market in 2017: Our Top 10 List.”

Marsh said that public directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance rates will keep dropping in 2017, following nine continuous quarters of rate decreases. But the rate of decline should slow somewhat, despite a spike in federal filings, according to the report.

There was a notable spike in federal filings in 2016 — the most since 2002. However, “the impact from those claims will take months, perhaps years, to be reflected in insurance rates,” Marsh said.

As price declines continue, however, the market is seeing a related trend: pure individual D&O coverage policies are fading, with insurers focusing on broadening their D&O offerings and making them unique to stay competitive, Marsh said.

Among the ways insurers are trying to keep their D&O offerings unique: providing or improving entity investigation cost coverage, adding reinstatement of limits for full coverage, and continuing increases in excess derivative investigative cost sublimits. Excess insurers are also reimbursing a percentage of an insured’s retention, if able to successfully obtain an early securities class action dismissal with prejudice, Marsh said.

Wednesday, April 05 2017

You paid for your Benefits. Shouldn't you keep them???

What is an Assignment of Benefits?

An Assignment of Benefits (AOB) is a contract between you and a contractor (such as a plumber, water remediation firm, roofer, etc.) where you give the contractor control of your claims benefits. They file a claim for their services and direct the insurance company to pay them directly.

What's in it for the contractor?

Once you sign an AOB, you lose control of the direction of your claim. The contractor takes control, and can submit whatever they like to your insurance company, sometimes billing the company two, three, four, five times the going market rate for their services, and sometimes including work that was never performed. You don't see this, and you can't verify what they did.

What are the potential pitfalls in signing an AOB?

You have committed to this contractor, and you have little to no recourse if you're not satisfied with their work. You can no longer comparison shop if you are not satisfied with their work. Even if they walk off the job with their work incomplete, they can still claim compensation from the insurance company which gets deducted from your benefits. Both you, and the contractor, are still bound by the terms and conditions of the policy, and if the contractor violates those terms and conditions, those actions could potentially jeopardize coverage for your entire loss.

What's in it for the contractor?

This is where the age old mantra of "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is," comes into play.

Has the contractor done any of the following?


  • Solicits a job from you unannounced for damages you didn't even know were allegedly present?

  • The contractor is offering you something for nothing, such as a free roof or kitchen

  • Wants to start work immediately and advises you to delay contacting your insurance company?

  • Offered to "take care of" your deductible.

Any of these issues could potentially lead to a fraud investigation which could jeopardize your coverage.

Possible Litigation:

As mentioned above, there is no standard for what the contractor can submit to the insurance company, and if the company questions the scope and/or the pricing submitted by the contractor the company can be sued directly by the contractor. And while you may not be a party to this lawsuit, more likely than not you will end up being a witness.


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