Change in insurance law would take away consumers’ day in court

Investigations

Change is in the wind in Tallahassee and it could spell trouble for policy holders fighting with their insurance companies.

Currently in Florida, customers have the right to sue insurance companies that drag their feel in settling claims

Eighteen months ago, Hurricane Irma roared through Florida causing $8 billion in damages. 

John Oates’ Hillsborough home became a casualty. 

His roof lifted and rain poured into the upstairs bedrooms.

“Water was literally coming down this wall so hard this thing was saturated,” Oates said as he pointed to his daughters’ bedroom wall. 

Downstairs in the kitchen, it was a little scary. 

“So water was dripping out of these can lights here,” Oates explained.

Thank goodness no one was in the downstairs bathroom

“This all just collapsed down,” Oates stated as he pointed to the ceiling. 

His insurance company, the Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company, says it quickly paid for living expenses when the Oates’ relocated to an apartment.

But when it came to home repairs, it was a different story.  

“It’s nowhere near the damages,” Oates said.

The Oates filed a breach of contract lawsuit, claiming Universal did not pay for things covered by the policy.

“The roof, they didn’t even get on the roof,” Oates’ attorney Kelly Kubiak explained.

“They didn’t pay for the interior damages, they didn’t pay anything with the electrical.”

If an insurance company drags out the claims process, consumers can also sue for bad faith, where they can recover other expenses they’ve been forced to incur, such as attorneys fees and living expenses that exceed the policy’s cap.

State Representative Alex Andrade(R) Pensacola wants to change that.

A bill Andrade submitted to the legislature would remove a consumer’s right to discovery, meaning no depositions, no experts.  

An adminstrative law judge would decide a bad faith claim, not a jury.

“Not consumer friendly whatsoever,” Kelly Kubiak added.  

“What they’re trying to do is take away the consumer’s right to go after the insurance company.”

Andrade did not respond to our requests for a comment.

Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company attorney Travis Miller said it appears the Oates did not supply all the information they had access to before filing suit.  

“Looking back at the files, it doesn’t look at all to me that there was a lack of dialogue and certainly to me, not a lack of responsiveness,” Miller said.

“Everything was processed in less than 30 to 50 days.”

“When you can see visible damage here and you send somebody 10% of what the real damages are and have no discussions with them at all, I have no input. Where does that leave you but to turn to professionals as I’ve done here,” Oates said. 

If you know of something that you think should be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1 800 338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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