Florida lawmakers adjourned without taking action — for the second session in a row — on two issues that threaten Florida communities: distracted driving and assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse.
Vehicle crashes and fatalities are rising sharply nationwide and in Florida. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates more than 40,000 people across the country died in motor vehicle crashes for a second consecutive year in 2017.
In Florida, motor vehicle fatalities have increased at an alarming 43 percent since 2014, according to the NSC.
Distracted driving, especially because of the ubiquitous use of smartphones, is one of the leading causes for the rise in auto crashes in Florida and nationwide. Unfortunately, Florida is one of only four states that hasn’t yet made texting while driving a primary-enforcement law. Law enforcement officers cannot pull over drivers who are using their devices while driving.
Auto insurers will continue our efforts with the FL DNT TXT N DRV Coalition to educate elected leaders on this important issue.
Another important issue to keep a watchful eye on is AOB abuse, a fraudulent practice that takes advantage of Florida property owners. Typically occurring after a major storm, dishonest contractors and repair companies work with the trial bar to convince consumers in need of repairs to hand over all the rights and benefits of their insurance policy. Once the vendors have control of the insurance benefits, they team up with trial lawyers to inflate claims and then sue the insurance companies. This drives up the cost of home and auto insurance. The AOB scam started in the homeowners insurance marketplace and often targeted storm victims who suffered damage to their homes.
AOB abuse has become another example of the crumbling legal climate and widespread lawsuit abuse for which Florida is gaining national notoriety.
Logan McFaddin, regional manager, Property Casualty Insurers Association
of America, Tallahassee