New Florida Property Insurance Legislation
With the passing of Senate Bill 2A, Florida legislators took the property insurance market in the state and made several changes supposedly focused on speeding up the process of filing and settling a claim. As a result, most provisions of SB 2A are now in place. While the legislation speeds up the claims process, at the same time prevents what the creators of the law call “frivolous litigation and fraudulent claims” against insurers. From a consumer standpoint, SB 2A tends to make legal action against insurers more difficult.
If you as a property owner in or around Tampa are having difficulty with a property insurance claim – the insurer is stalling, low-balling, or denying your settlement – contact Pekar Law, P.A. for reliable legal assistance. Attorney Jeff Pekar used to work as an insurance company defense attorney, so he knows how insurers think and operate. He can help you resolve your claim and pursue any legal remedy necessary.
In addition to Tampa, Pekar Law, P.A. proudly serves clients throughout Western and Central Florida, including Orlando, Sarasota, Fort Myers, and Lakeland.
What Does SB 2A Accomplish?
There are several layers to the new legislation. Here are some of the main features:
Florida Optional Reinsurance Assistance (FORA): Insurers generally purchase reinsurance policies to cover claims during hurricane season. As a result, the state hurricane reinsurance program has focused on being cheaper than commercially available products already on the market. The goal is to reduce consumers’ premiums through FORA.
Claim Filing Deadline: SB 2A reduces the deadline for policyholders to file new or reopened claims from two years to one. Supplement claims must now be filed within 18 months instead of three years.
Prompt Pay Provisions: The act seeks to get claims settled and paid quickly by reducing the time insurance companies have to carry out the steps needed in claim processing. It reduces the time the insurer has to pay or deny a claim from 90 days to 60 unless the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) extends the period because of an emergency or the insurer’s computer system failure. Now, insurers must review and acknowledge a claim in 7 instead of 14 days. Insurers must also carry out any physical inspection within 45 instead of 60 days.
Awards of Attorney Fees in Property Insurance Lawsuits: The bill eliminates the payment of attorney’s fees by the insurer for the plaintiff’s legal representation. Each side – insurer and insured – must now pay their own attorney’s fees.
Assignment of Benefits (AOB): SB 2A prohibits the assignment, in whole or in part, of any post-loss insurance benefit under any residential property insurance policy or under any commercial property insurance policy issued on or after January 1, 2023. In other words, the Assignment of Benefits is no longer an option in property insurance claims.
Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR): The bill extends new powers to the Office of Insurance Regulation to watch over the property insurers in the state. It also adds funding for additional employees. Additionally, it allows OIR to discipline insurance companies for abuse of the appraisal process, review a company’s forms and suspend the ability to use the appraisal for up to two years (policyholders and insureds can still use it), and identify companies on OIR’s website that abuse the appraisal process. OIR is also allowed to extend coverage to 45 days from 30 days for policies of insolvent insurers.
Bad Faith Failure Litigation: SB 2A revises Florida’s Bad Faith Statute to eliminate the payment of an appraisal award or the acceptance of an offer when filing a bad faith lawsuit. Bad faith litigation for failure to settle a property insurance claim may not be filed until after the insured has established, through adverse adjudication by a court, that the insurer breached the insurance contract and a final judgment or decree has been provided against the insurer.
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens): Policyholders of the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation will be required to purchase flood insurance, but the requirement is being phased in. The more expensive properties would have to purchase flood insurance by March 1, 2024, but all policyholders must have flood insurance by March 2027. The bill also establishes a 20 percent rule. This means that Citizens’ policyholders must move to a commercial policy if that carrier’s premium is no more than 20 percent higher than Citizens’.
Mandatory Arbitration: The law allows insurers under certain conditions to offer policies with mandatory arbitration, but at the same time, they must offer policies without the provision. The policyholder can choose.
Turn to Reliable Legal Assistance
If you own property in Florida, there are now speedier timelines for filing and hopefully settling a claim, while at the same time, insurers will be more carefully monitored. However, this does not guarantee that your property insurer won’t put up roadblocks to your claim or even deny your claim. Legal remedies are still there, but with some added steps.
If you need to resolve a claim or dispute with your insurer and you’re located anywhere in Central or Western Florida, contact Pekar Law, P.A., immediately. Attorney Jeff Pekar is familiar with insurance company tactics and can help push through your claim and, if necessary, take legal action. Reach out from the start of your claim.