Boyd Seeks Reforms To Reduce Insurance Losses

Government

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY MAR 29, 2021

In his first legislative session as a member of the Florida Senate, Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, has focused much of his energy on a massive reform of Florida’s insurance laws. Doing so, he’s found himself at the center of a partisan battle and a struggle between trial lawyers and insurance carriers.

Boyd, CEO of Boyd Insurance & Investments in Bradenton, has tried to strike a balance but said there’s a huge financial threat to domestic insurance carriers in Florida. A recent analysis by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation found property insurers could double losses from 2019 to 2020; net underwriting losses have continued industry-wide for the past five years. In addition to working in the industry, the region he represents has a high concentration of insurance companies headquartered here.

The consequence for consumers has been a dramatic jump in renewal costs for homeowners across the state. Boyd himself saw his own rates jump 40% last year. “The rising cost of property insurance in Florida has affected everyone,” he said.

He’s sponsored legislation this year that addresses losses for insurers in part by eliminating the chance for multiplier fees for attorneys for clients who take carriers to court. Boyd said he understands there will always be a need for some insurers to sure their providers, and there’s some judge’s discretion still allowed in his legislation for high fees in special cases. But the state has seen some instances where attorneys end up with tens of thousands in court payments when they clients leave with less than $200 savings. That’s a situation that benefits only trial attorneys.

"A large percentage of the time, insurance companies settle claims efficiently, quickly and fairly," Boyd said.

But critics of Boyd’s legislation say it directs the reform in the wrong direction. Sen. Gary Farmer, Senate Democratic leader, in committees argued the problem is often carriers willing to go to trial rather than pay a claim with just a couple hundred bucks. “Homeowners don’t want to sue their insurance companies, period,” he said in a committee this week.

Trial lawyers have also lobbied against the reforms, as have some consumers in the Panhandle, where many remain in litigation over claims from Hurricane Michael in 2018. Democrats in the Senate have filed lists of amendments addressing everything from the fee multipliers to the font size on policies.

Notably, Boyd’s legislation also reduces the time a consumer can take a claim to court from three years to two. He also wants a change in what roofing policies can be sold in Florida. Right now, policies must cost the replacement cost of a roof, but he wants policies that just cover a depreciated value on roofs more than 10 years old. “A roof has a life expectancy just like an HVAC unit,” he said. Homeowner have some maintenance costs intrinsic with holding property.

But while the bill allows depreciated values to be insured, he stressed carriers can still offer and those willing to pay the price can still buy policies that cover the full replacement cost on a roof.

Boyd’s legislation have made it through three committee votes and awaits a hearing on the Senate floor.

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