SAINT JOHNS, Florida, Aug. 10 — The Insurance Information Institute issued the following news release:
The turmoil in Florida’s homeowners insurance market is being caused primarily by the state’s outsized number of lawsuits and its commonplace fraud schemes, according to an Issues Brief published today by the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).
“Floridians are seeing homeowners’ insurance become costlier and scarcer because for years the state has been the home of too much litigation and too many fraudulent roof-replacement schemes,” said Sean Kevelighan, CEO, Triple-I. “These two factors contributed enormously to the net underwriting losses Florida’s homeowners’ insurers cumulatively incurred between 2017 and 2021.” Florida homeowners pay the highest average property insurance premium in the U.S. at $4,231, nearly three times the U.S. average of $1,544, according to Triple-I’s analysis.
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The net underwriting losses for Florida domestic property companies exceeded $1 billion in both 2020 and 2021, Triple-I’s Issues Brief noted, leading to insurer insolvencies and rating downgrades. Some insurers who were able to withstand these negative financial trends have reduced their exposure to Florida’s homeowners market by issuing non-renewal notices to existing policyholders or restricting the writing of new business in the state.
Two major hurricanes made landfall in the state in 2017 (Category 4 Irma) and 2018 (Category 5 Michael). The past three hurricane seasons (2019-2021), however, have been relatively quiet ones for Florida. Insurers are experiencing net underwriting losses in large part because Florida is the site of 79 percent of all homeowners insurance lawsuits over claims filed nationwide while Florida’s homeowners insurers receive only 9 percent of all U.S. homeowners property insurance claims, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Floridians For Lawsuit Reform estimates 130,000 property claim lawsuits will be filed in 2022, largely due to Florida’s favorable litigation environment.
“Florida has one of the most generous attorney-fee mechanisms in the country–sometimes resulting in insurer payment of plaintiff attorney fees far greater than the damage awards given to the policyholders who are the plaintiffs themselves,” the Triple-I’s Issues Brief explained. “A 2017 state Supreme Court decision allows courts to award plaintiffs’ attorneys 2-2.5 times their hourly billing rate when courts rule in favor of policyholders. These “contingency fee multipliers” can result in attorneys receiving several hundred thousand dollars for a simple lawsuit.” The homeowners insurer pays the plaintiff’s attorney fees as well as damages to the plaintiff, the insurer’s policyholder, in the event of a court ruling in favor of the policyholder.
Triple-I’s Issues Brief also highlights the steps taken by unethical roofing contractors, who ask homeowners insurance policyholders to sign assignment of benefits (AOB) forms or direction to pay agreements, giving the contractor the right to collect claim payments directly from the insurer and file a lawsuit without the knowledge or consent of the policyholder. These lawsuits require insurers to allocate resources to defend themselves in court, with the policyholder often unaware the signed AOB form has set into motion potential litigation.
“As insurers fail or leave, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. – the state-run home insurer of last resort – is swelling with business. Citizens had 931,357 policies in force as of June 30, 2022, up from 638,263 policies in June 2021 and 474,630 policies in June 2020. Citizens could spend as much as $100 million this year on litigation expenses,” Triple-I’s Issues Brief reported.
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View court filing here: https://www.iii.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/triple-i_trends_and_insights_florida_issues_brief_08082022.pdf
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Original text here: https://www.iii.org/press-release/triple-i-floridas-homeowners-insurers-are-facing-multiple-crises-080922