As Florida property insurers attribute claims litigation to numerous industry problems, state insurance commissioner David Altmaier and two insurers face a lawsuit challenging policy changes that target property insurers. lawsuits and contractors.
The Restoration Association of Florida and Air Quality Assessors, LLC, an Orange County-based company that does work such as mold and leak detection, filed a lawsuit Monday in the County Circuit Court of Florida. Leon v Altmaier, American Integrity Insurance Company of Florida and Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company
In part, the lawsuit alleges that Altmaier violated the constitutional separation of powers by approving policy changes for companies that conflict with state law.
“By approving the policies, Commissioner Altmaier violated the public policies of the State of Florida as enacted by the Legislature, which will result in prejudice to plaintiffs if the amendments are not reversed,” said the trial.
The lawsuit was filed a week before the start of a special legislative session Governor Ron DeSantis called to address widespread problems with the property insurance system, including loss of homeowners coverage and skyrocketing premiums. .
Insurers have long argued that a major cause of the problems is that contractors and lawyers litigate claims. As part of that, they blame a requirement that in many cases requires insurers to pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees.
The lawsuit targets policy changes that the National Insurance Regulatory Board, led by Altmaier, has approved for companies in recent months.
American Integrity’s changes involve an effort to move claims disputes to mediation and arbitration. The changes offer a premium reduction to policyholders for an agreement to use mediation and, if that doesn’t resolve disputes, to go to binding arbitration.
Also, according to the lawsuit, customers should pay their own attorneys’ fees in disputes that go to mediation and arbitration. He said it would increase legal costs for landlords and contractors, who often receive benefits under landlord policies.
“While the policy language provides that insureds have the right to be represented by counsel during both mediation and arbitration, it removes the right to recover those (attorney’s) fees otherwise codified by the Florida Legislature, as set forth in Florida statute,” the lawsuit mentioned.
Changes to Heritage’s policy include excluding payment of persons such as appraisers, inspectors, engineers and contractors to estimate losses, unless Heritage requests or approves the work.
The lawsuit alleges that the changes prevent owners from choosing contractors and effectively prevent the awarding of benefits to contractors. When ceding benefits, contractors pursue payment of claims with insurers — a practice that insurers say has long led to more litigation.
The plaintiffs argue that changes to Heritage’s policy would strip policyholders of their legal rights and cause delays in home repairs after incidents such as hurricanes.
In addition to challenging the legality of the policy changes, the lawsuit seeks an injunction. It was awarded to Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey, according to a court filing.