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Monday, April 29 2019
Olson & DiNunzio Insurance Agency, Inc. Receives Accreditation from
Wednesday, April 24 2019
After seven years of failed attempts, Florida legislators have passed property insurance reform to address the abuse of a policyholder benefit known as assignment of benefits (AOB).
The insurance industry and consumers advocates say the abuse has caused higher insurance premiums in the state and made insurance harder to obtain.
By a vote of 25-14 by the Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a measure (SB 122) that addresses the abuse of post-loss AOBs for residential or commercial property insurance claims and limits one-way attorney’s fees related to AOB agreements. The bill was a committee substitute for House Bill 7065, which passed the House on April 11.
The bill’s provisions:
The Senate bill was sponsored by Senator Doug Broxson, chair of the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill, which would then become law on July 1, 2019.
Advocates of reform praised the passage of the bill, saying it was long overdue and will bring much needed relief to Florida homeowners.
Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier issued the following statement to Insurance Journal following the passage of the AOB reform,
“OIR’s main focus is to work towards decreasing insurance costs for consumers living in Florida, while balancing the solvency needs of companies operating in Florida. The passage of HB 7065 is a significant step towards stemming the insurance product affordability and availability crisis that has grown from years of compounding AOB abuse.”
President of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents (FAIA) Jeff Grady said the passage of AOB reform is also a big win for insurance agents.
“This a long awaited day for Florida consumers and the industry as a whole. Agents have been impacted by AOB fraud resulting in poor loss ratios and cancellations of company appointments,” Grady said. “We are grateful for the leadership within both the legislature and the Florida cabinet to finally enact AOB reform and eliminate this fraud from our insurance marketplace.”
Tuesday, April 23 2019
A restoration contracting company owner was arrested this month in Florida for allegedly stealing more than $40,000 from consumers who assigned their insurance benefits to him through assignment of benefits (AOB) contracts, according to a statement from Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis.
Wyatt Green, owner of Storm Restoration Specialists LLC, and his staff are accused of forging customer signatures on construction documents and insurance claim payment checks that required signatures from both the homeowner and mortgage lender. An AOB gives a third-party authority to file a claim, make repair decisions and collect insurance payments without the homeowners’ involvement.
Detectives from the Florida Department of Financial Services discovered that Green was hired by four homeowners to perform contracting work. Green’s office would directly receive insurance checks that required three signatures—one from the homeowner, one from the mortgage lender, and one from Storm Restoration Specialists LLC. Allegedly, Green directed his staff to forge homeowners’ signatures on the checks as well as added the mortgage lenders’ endorsement before depositing the checks into his bank account.
The investigations revealed that Green and his employees purchased 58 false bank endorsement stamps from a online manufacturer to aid in this scam.
Employees of Green also admitted to forging customer signatures on construction documents required by counties and municipalities. In some cases, construction work was never completed, and in others the work never even began.
Green was booked into the Duval County Jail on April 12, on charges of organized scheme to defraud, grand theft and forgery. If convicted, Green faces up to 35 years in prison.
“This case is another example of a bad contractor scamming Floridians and pocketing the money without actually making repairs. AOBs were once used to protect Floridians but recently, assigning your benefits over to a contractor has become an abusive practice,” Patronis said. “When they hire a company, consumers should have peace of mind that work is being completed and not have to worry about being left high and dry by a contractor. My detectives work hard every day to find these criminals and stop them from preying on homeowners.”
Wednesday, April 10 2019
Self-driving vehicles could be operated in Florida without a human backup under a bill approved by a House committee last week, which could pave the way for companies like Uber and Lyft to deploy fleets of driverless vehicles.
Republican sponsor Rep. Jason Fischer said he wants Florida to be ahead of other states in allowing the vehicles on state highways as the technology continues to develop. His bill updates a current law allowing self-driving vehicles if there’s a person in the car as a backup. The House State Affairs Committee approved the bill on a 20-1 vote and it’s now ready for a vote by the full House.
“Florida is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leaders in self-driving vehicle public policy, and in order to maintain this position and encourage companies to test and deploy here in our state, we must address our existing laws governing motor vehicle operation that did not contemplate a driverless future when they were written,” Fischer said.
In the same meeting, the committee advanced a separate bill outlawing texting and other distractions while driving. Fischer’s bill states that if there is a person behind the wheel of self-driving car, he or she could or watch television or text if the automated driving system is engaged.
Self-driving cars have come under more scrutiny after a vehicle Uber was testing fatally struck a pedestrian in Arizona last year. But Fischer, who is an electrical engineer, said he wouldn’t be sponsoring the bill if he didn’t think the cars were safe. He said 94% of fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2017 were caused by human error.
“These vehicles are designed in a way to operate much more intelligently and maybe even more rationally than a human driver would,” Fischer said.
Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton said there have always been safety concerns as transportation technology advances.
“We used to have horses and buggies and when you went to tie the horse up to try to make sure you could get to market, sometimes the horse would kick you in the head, but we moved through that,” Newton said. “Do we go back to horses and buggies so everybody is safe and get kicked in the head, or do we embrace the technology and move forward?”
A companion Senate bill was unanimously approved in its first committee and had two more stops before reaching the full chamber as of last week.
Monday, April 01 2019
Nearly eight in 10 consumers talk on the phone while driving and more than 30 percent admit to having been in a near-miss crash because they were distracted.
Also, although distracted driving poses potential liability risks for companies, many expect employees to remain connected and do little to discourage such behaviors behind the wheel
Travelers Companies announced these and other results of its 2019 Travelers Risk Index, which surveyed more than 2,000 consumers and executives about distracted driving and the reasons behind it.
The Travelers Risk Index identified common distractions when behind the wheel, including:
“It’s startling to see that drivers continue to engage in potentially life-threatening habits,” said Chris Hayes, second vice president of Transportation, Risk Control at Travelers. “Whether driving for work or on personal time, many drivers overlook risks that make our roads more dangerous for all of us.”
Some drivers say it would be difficult to stop such behaviors. Thirteen percent of respondents say they would find it very difficult to stop reading texts or emails while driving, and 11 percent say it would be difficult to stop typing texts or emails while driving. In addition, five percent of respondents say they would find it very difficult to stop shopping online while driving.
Nineteen percent say they would still drive distracted even if it was against the law.
(Recent research out of the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University and published in the American Journal of Public Health — Texting-While-Driving Bans and Motor Vehicle Crash–Related Emergency Department Visits in 16 US States: 2007–2014— suggests that laws against texting may make a difference. The study found that crash-related emergency room visits fell four percent on average from 2007 to 2014 in states that prohibit texting while driving. Crash-related injuries dropped eight percent in states that placed primary bans on texting while driving, the study found.)
Although many smartphones have settings to help drivers stay focused, most drivers do not use these features. Consistent with last year’s index from the insurer, only 12 percent of consumers set their phones to Do Not Disturb while driving. In fact, of those respondents who do not activate the Do Not Disturb feature, 41 percent actively choose not to turn it on, while others simply forget to turn it on or find it inconvenient to do so (35 percent), according to the survey.
The 2019 index also suggests that many workplaces do not consider the full consequences of distracted driving. According to the National Safety Council, the average economic cost of a crash is more than $1 million per death and more than $78,000 per nonfatal disabling injury. However, 12 percent of executives surveyed do not worry about the liability associated with a crash caused by a distracted employee, and most (74 percent) do not consider distracted driving to be of great concern.
The connected culture and mounting workplace expectations may be contributing to distracted driving. While most businesses report being at least somewhat concerned about employees’ use of mobile devices on the road, an overwhelming majority (87 percent) of executives expect workers to be sometimes or frequently reachable outside of the office. Employees feel this pressure, as 20 percent of respondents who admit to replying to work-related messages while driving say they do so because they worry about upsetting their boss. Further, nearly half of those same respondents say they always need to be available or do not want to miss a work-related emergency. Lastly, 17 percent say drive time is when they get a lot of work done.
“The pressure to always be online and connected can be deadly,” added Hayes. “Even though distraction-related crashes occur frequently, some companies continue to expect constant connectivity without considering what’s at stake.”
According to Travelers, three out of four workplaces have implemented distracted driving policies. However, just 18 percent of businesses advise employees to set their phones to Do Not Disturb before driving, and only 40 percent report knowing of an employee who was disciplined for not complying with company policy.
According to the survey, having conversations about driving behavior can make a difference. Sixteen percent of consumers say they rarely or never speak up while in a car with a distracted driver, yet more than half (54 percent) say they would likely cease distracted driving behaviors if they were asked to do so.
Some conversations about distracted driving are already happening: Two-thirds of parents have spoken to their children about distracted driving, and the same amount of companies say they have an employee education program about the dangers of distracted driving and how to avoid it.
About the Travelers survey: Hart Research conducted a national online survey of 1,000 consumers, ages 18 to 69, in March 2019. Separately, Hart surveyed 1,050 executives from businesses of all sizes. Both surveys were commissioned by Travelers.