SAN MARCO, Fla. — Insurance rates have increased as much as 700% over the past few years according to Brightway Insurance Agent Matthew Carlucci Jr.
“Some people are considering liquidating their homes because they can’t afford the property insurance,” said Kevin Smith, another insurance agent. “It is terribly high.”
It’s the reason the state legislature is making its first comprehensive push to control the unstable market. Senate Bill 2A would eliminate the requirement that insurance companies pay the attorney fees of policyholders who win lawsuits.
Carlucci said when insurance companies get sued for not paying a claim, it costs up to six times more to defend the decision rather than just pay it.
”They pass that cost along to the consumer, so a premium that five years ago was $900 a year — could very well be five to six thousand dollars a year right now.”
State Senate Republicans said in a release that 76% of nationwide homeowner lawsuits were opened in Florida last year.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat, said this change would strip away a consumer’s right.
”Attorney fees really do exist to ensure every person has access to the courts. If you get rid of those, you get rid of the ability for someone who doesn’t have a lot money to challenge an insurance agency in the court of law,” she said.
The bill would also create a taxpayer-funded program of about $1 billion dollars to help insurance companies pay for reinsurance.
“When a hurricane hits, all these insurance companies who you’re calling to file a claim with — they’re doing the same thing,” Carlucci said. Much like homeowners, insurance companies are also dealing with increased rates especially with back-to-back hurricanes this year.
Carlucci added that the savings would eventually trickle down to consumers by 2024.
“A lot of companies that are on the brink of going out of business right now won’t. They’ll stay in business and become more aggressive in offering competitive premiums,” Carlucci said. “The more companies that are essentially playing ball in Florida, the more competitive the rates get and work their way down.”
Eskamani said the bill is a bailout for big companies. “Unfortunately, there is no guarantee in this billion dollar slush fund that savings will be passed down to policy holders. And that is a concern.”
The bill will go through amendments on both the State House and the State Senate floors before making its way to a vote on Wednesday.
[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]