Color Senate Democrats skeptical of the oft-repeated claim that Florida is the source of 77 to 79% of all insurance litigation even though it accounts for just 8% of the entire U.S. insurance market.
Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and Senate Democratic Leader-Designate Jason Pizzo held a town meeting with Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) Commissioner Michael Yaworsky Wednesday night on an issue that is top of mind for many Floridians as hurricane season kicks into high gear: the cost of insuring property in Florida.
“Floridians are upset, concerned and worried because it is something that they have to rely on to preserve their most valuable possession,” Book said.
Yaworsky said that Florida is home to the “most complicated, sophisticated insurance market in the world” and has been since Hurricane Andrew struck and sent all assumptions about liability and exposure tumbling, Yaworsky said.
Still, Pizzo roasted Yaworsky over the claim that Florida accounts for most of the country’s lawsuits about insurance claims compared to its tiny share of the U.S. insurance market. He said he voted for legislation he was told would address that situation years ago, but nothing’s changed. And he and other lawmakers can’t see the data that adds up to that claim.
“We’ve been getting more information from the federal government on UFOs in the past year than we have on the current insurance data from the state of Florida,” Pizzo said.
Yaworsky said that the data behind that assertion is a trade secret. In a 2016 case, OIR wanted to release the data but was prevented by a judge’s ruling, Yaworsky said.
“I think it’s a fair question that the Legislature can look at (changing the laws about) to be honest with you,” Yaworsky said.
Later, Pizzo said he would be introducing legislation make the data more transparent.
Yaworsky, who started as the insurance regulation chief in March, said the insurance market is getting better.
“I’ve approved five companies this year to come into the marketplace, which is more than last year,” Yaworsky said.
Later, Pizzo said it’s not surprising that more insurance companies want a piece of the Florida insurance market, given recent legislation Gov. Ron DeSantis backed. The new law made it so that insurance companies would no longer be required to pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees, even if they improperly denied the claim.
“The insurance companies are realizing they’re not going to have litigation anymore because all the Fords and Chevys — smaller claims — have been eliminated,” Pizzo said. “If they have a $20,000 property damage claim, people are going to find out real soon they can’t hire an attorney for less than that.”
Pizzo said he would also like to file legislation that will flag companies that are denying a high percentage of smaller claims and also allow multiple buildings to leverage better rates by negotiating insurance coverage and rates as a collective.
There was some good news on the horizon. Last week’s Hurricane Idalia only had a fraction of the property damage that Hurricane Ian had last year, Yaworsky said.