Florida Public Adjuster Fee Caps………The Saga Continues
As the 2014 Florida Legislative Session enters its final week, once again there are insurance industry backed proposals that will impact public adjusters and their ability to advocate for the policyholder. A purposed amendment was added to a bill in the house this past week seeking to limit the rates public adjusters can charge for their services……something that was debated by this same group last year.
First I ask that you listen to Senator Joe Negron who sits on the banking and insurance committee and discussed the proposals during a recent hearing. Most people think Senator Negron is spot on about public adjusting fees. As background, all the fee issues were worked out in Florida last year. That included a 20 % cap on daily claims and a 10 % cap on state of emergency claims.
Now, as if the legislature didn't have enough to do they are again going back to the public adjusting fee issue. A recent blog from an insurance company consultant calling the fee cap currently in place a red herring was full of misinformation and half-truths. Seems this guys only wants to blog part of the truth as he feels a 10 % overall cap is all that is necessary. He further states that the small claims that will not be taken by the good public adjusters because they cannot economically handle them is bogus and besides, all a consumer has to do is call Tallahassee and all the help you need is just a phone call away. Problem with that is that Florida Chief Financial Officer Atwater who is in charge of the Office of Insurance Regulation publicity spoke about the thousands of calls his office gets from property owners looking for help when their properties are damaged by storms and fires. And let’s not forget the court room statement that an attorney from Atwater's office made to the effect that anything that is said by the Department of Financial Services aka Office of Insurance Regulation over the phone is non- binding.
And what about all those claims people call in to my office after a catastrophic event looking for help after an inadequate offer is made by their insurance company? I would guess 90% of those calls would not have been taken in the past and will not be in the future if the fee were limited to 10% across the board.
So where do these policyholders go for help? My guess, based on what I am reading, is that some attorneys may take the cases since the Florida Bar imposes higher fee caps and in some limited cases they may be able to pass their 33 1/3 to 40% fee on to the insurance industry. Have you read about the legal fees Citizens and others are running up, defending claims that should have been settled? How about $7 million a month in the last three months of 2013 for Citizens alone? That’s $21 million in consumer insurance premiums poured down a legal rat hole. And remember, Citizens hired a law firm over on the east coast of Florida and will pay them over $6 million just to manage Citizens lawsuits.
So here we are yet again. Big insurance with their high priced lobbyist pushing for public adjuster fee reductions and wasting valuable legislative time that should be spent on solving some of Florida’s real problems.
Finally, remember the flood insurance actuarial crises which Congress put another band aid on? Do you know that agents get a fat 20% commission to hand a flood policy to a homeowner? It always amazes me that insurance agents, attorneys, certified public accounts, engineers, even insurance company independent adjusters, condo management companies, contractors, and the list goes on and on have higher fee caps (if any at all) than public adjusters! And let’s not leave out Florida’s finest political types. Do they have any fee caps on their jobs when not in session?
What’s up with this blatant anti-competitive discrimination against the entire public adjusting profession? Maybe it's time to have the feds look into this, as discrimination or unfair trade practices. It’s about as un-American as it gets. Let’s let the free market work like in the other professions. That’s it for my rant. Thanks for listening. Let us know what you think.