- Florida’s House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 7052, aimed at increasing insurer accountability and strengthening consumer protections following Hurricane Ian.
- The legislation requires proper claims handling practices, increases regulatory oversight of insurers, and mandates property insurance and motor vehicle rate filings to include the combined effect of recent legislative reforms.
- The bill has the support of Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who believes it will help empower storm victims to recover more quickly.
The Florida House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday aimed at increasing insurer accountability and strengthening consumer protections in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Senate Bill 7052, which was approved by the Florida Senate last week, will now be sent to Governor Ron DeSantis for his signature.
The legislation comes after a rise in complaints alleging that some insurance companies have been slow to make recovery payments following the hurricane. The bill includes provisions related to insurance coverage, rates, insurer claims handling, and regulatory oversight practices. It seeks to strike a balance between insurers and policyholders, holding insurers accountable if they fail to meet their contractual obligations, while maintaining consumer access to affordable and reliable property insurance.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has expressed support for the bill, stating that it will help empower storm victims and allow them to recover more quickly. “I have no doubt that this legislation will help empower storm victims so they can get back on their feet quicker and further down the road to recovery,” Patronis said in a prepared release.
Among other requirements, the bill mandates that property insurance and motor vehicle rate filings include the combined effect of recent legislative reforms, and that property insurance mitigation discounts be updated at least every five years. Insurers must also provide information on hurricane mitigation discounts available to policyholders on their websites.
In terms of claims handling, the legislation requires liability insurers to follow proper claims handling practices and residential property insurers to create and use claims-handling manuals compliant with the Insurance Code. The Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) will be responsible for ensuring the proper implementation of these manuals. The bill also strengthens the Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act by prohibiting altering or amending adjuster’s reports without detailed explanations for any change that reduces the estimated loss.
Lawmakers have taken steps to address the issue of trial lawyers driving up insurance costs in previous reforms, but this legislation seeks to hold insurers accountable as well. “We have no desire to go from a system that enriches trial lawyers, to a system that incentivizes insurance companies to use the law to avoid paying claims that should be paid,” said the bill sponsor, Senator Travis Hutson.
The bill increases regulatory oversight of insurers by requiring the OIR to forward relevant records and information on potential criminal law violations to the Department of Financial Services (DFS), law enforcement, or prosecutorial agencies. It also raises maximum administrative fines for insurers by 250 percent generally and 500 percent for violations related to a state of emergency, such as a hurricane. Additionally, the bill requires insurers to respond promptly to the DFS Division of Consumer Services and increases staffing for both the DFS Division of Consumer Services and the OIR.