Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty issued an order last year letting residential property insurance providers make changes to their policies more quickly. Florida property insurance lawyers took note of the fact that these fast tracked procedures will end next week on Monday. Commissioner McCarty is still deciding whether to extend the order or not, which consumer advocates and other insurance lawyers have argued is a measure that easily leads to abuses, as the insurance industry saying "trust me, the changes are fair" is not enough. Office of Insurance Regulation spokesperson Amy Bolger said on Wednesday that the office had not decided on the extension yet.
Commissioner McCarty's order was in response to recent state budget cut backs that left the Office of Insurance Regulation flooded with a large amount of filings from insurance companies asking for changes to the coverage they provide. The order allows the insurance company to assert that the changes comply with Florida law and allows them to offer the changes to policyholders after 30 days, with no review by state regulators. This is why many are concerned about the self regulation allowed under this order, because Florida insurance customers shouldn't have to suffer because the Office of Insurance Regulation has too many backlogged forms and an insufficient budget.
McCarty's order has done what was intended and lessened the workload and backlog of filings for the Office of Insurance Regulation- so far 1,433 forms filed by companies have gone through the procedure. But the Office of Insurance Regulation has, unfortunately, no records on how many of these fast tracked forms were later brought to the attention of regulators and highlighted for possible problems.
In some positive news on this front, the state budget for next year allows for the creation of new positions in the Office of Insurance Regulation, which would hopefully help with future backlog issues once this fast track order expires, according to Ms. Bolger.
Florida's legislature has already passed a permanent fast track option for insurance on commercial properties. Commissioner McCarty issued a similar order for commercial properties last year, and then SB 468 was passed which made the option permanent. That bill originally included a provision for residential properties as well, but was taken out.
Insurance, particularly property insurance, is a big expense for Floridians and getting a fair deal from your insurance company is important. Insurance companies have a lot of money and resources to help them, but policyholders have rights under Florida law that should be protected. If your insurance company is trying to put its profits above your needs as a policyholder, for benefits and coverage you paid for, contact a Florida insurance property attorney to learn about your options. Under Florida insurance law, if you proceed with a case and you succeed the attorney's fees will automatically be the responsibility of the insurance company. So no matter the size of your claim, you would get to keep the entire court award.
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