Patronis eyes ‘assignment of benefit' changes for windshield repairs

File photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will push during the 2020 legislative session to address auto-glass coverage as part of the overhaul of Florida’s “assignment of benefits” insurance laws.

“The auto glass version of AOB has got to be dealt with,” Patronis said in a video posted Friday by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “My office is committed to it, and if we just reflect on 2006, we had 400 odd lawsuits that were AOB-related lawsuits. This year we’re going to break 35,000. The lions’ share of that exploitation is the windshield glass fraud that takes place.”

Lawmakers this year revamped assignment of benefits for claims dealing with homeowners’ insurance but did not address it for windshield repairs.

Under assignment of benefits, property owners in need of repairs sign over benefits to contractors, who ultimately pursue payments from insurance companies.

Assignment of benefits is a decades-old practice that has become controversial in recent years. Insurers have complained about fraud and litigation, while plaintiffs’ attorneys and other groups argue AOB helps make sure claims are properly paid. They accuse insurers of often trying to lowball amounts paid for work.

The bill signed into law this year (HB 7065) includes numerous changes related to homeowners’ coverage, including creating a system to effectively limit attorney fees in AOB lawsuits filed by contractors against insurers. The fee changes, which involve a formula, don’t apply to lawsuits filed by policyholders. Also, the bill lets insurers offer policies that restrict or do not allow assignment of benefits. The concept is that such policies could be offered at lower prices to homeowners.

Bills (SB 754, HB 323) aimed applying AOB changes to auto-glass coverage did not get through committees during the 2019 session, and the issue also was not included in the homeowners’ insurance bill that passed.