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Assignment of Benefits Abuse Driving Up Cost of Home, Car Insurance in Florida

Sun Sentinel

Originally published by ABC Action News, WFTS Tampa Bay   |   View Story

Small business owner Mike Hinsch's trouble started after a mobile glass business replaced the windshields in three work trucks.

Hinch’s auto policy exploded from $16,000 a year to $22,000 over the windshield claim.

This plumber had no idea the glass company hit his insurer up for 14 thousand dollars. The average windshield runs between $400 and $600.

For teacher Kellie Clark it started with a stranger at the door. She says he indicated he was with her insurer and needed to check her roof for hail damage.

Like Hinsch, Clark signed an assignment of benefits or AOB. It's where home and auto owners turn over all rights to their claim to a contractor or lawyer in exchange for a quick repair.

Done Rite roofing owner Jason Loiacana came out for a second opinion.

He confirmed the Clark's needed a new roof, an $8,000 to $9,000 dollar job. But the AOB Clark signed allowed the Simbro Group, not an actual contractor, to file an $18,000 claim with her insurance.

AOB abuse occurs when contractors and attorneys inflate claims then sue the insurance companies for payment. Insurers often settle to avoid costly court fights.

House speaker Richard Corcoran says homeowners could see their bills increase 2 to 4 thousand dollars a year in the next 5 years if the legislature fails to pass one of the measures aimed at curbing AOB abuse.

In Clark's case the Simbro group threatened to take her house after she returned the $18,000 check to the insurer.

We called Larry Simmons of the Simbro Group and his attorney Steven Pellingra neither would comment.

In Brooksville, Army veteran Chris Masson estimates he's paying $1,800 a year more for auto insurance this year after an AOB related claim.

It's difficult to make out the AOB fine print on the work order Masson signed. Insurance refused to pay the glass company's rates which led to him being named in a lawsuit against his own insurer.

The company that installed windshield Auto Glass America claims the AOB’s protect contractors from insurance companies that don't want to pay the standard rate. Auto Glass America filed more than 700 cases in Hillsborough County alone last year against insurers.

AOB reform has both proponents and fierce critics in Tallahassee. Right now there are bills pending in both the house and senate and no guarantee either will survive the session.