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Florida Insurance Commissioner Wants Some Relief For Insurance Companies

Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said insurance companies shouldn’t have to pay attorney fees when contractors sue them over property damage claims. He warned lawmakers this week that if the state doesn’t change its insurance rules, insurance companies will leave the market or raise rates.

“The increase in the litigation against insurance companies, without any corresponding consumer complaints, without any corresponding significant pipe defect, like we had maybe with the drywall situation several years ago," he said. "There’s no other explanation other than the one-way attorney fees is providing the incentive for this.”

Altmaier said officials are crafting legislation now, but he hopes to see a proposal that would lessen the financial burden for insurers who complain about the rising number of lawsuits filed, particularly in water damage claims.

As it stands now, homeowners are allowed to authorize home repair companies to deal directly with the insurance companies for them. But Altmaier wants to make sure those companies can’t collect attorney fees if they sue the property insurer.

“We still think it allows an avenue for consumer that have been wronged by their insurance company to sue them personally and the benefit of the one way attorney fee statute and we still think there’s an avenue for those contractors to sue the insurance company if they think that they’ve been wronged as well," he said.

Insurance companies would still pay attorney fees when homeowners sue them. The proposal could be an incremental shift in the state’s assignment of benefits law which allows home repair companies to negotiate directly with insurance companies. Insurers complain some contractors and lawyers inflate the claims.

Sarah Mueller is a journalist who has worked for media outlets in several states since 2010. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010 and worked as a print reporter covering local government and politics.