Over the past six months or so we have seen a drastic swing in the perception and manner in which insurance carriers are handling sinkhole claims. It used to be that when a homeowner had a dispute with how to repair the confirmed sinkhole activity at their property they would hire an attorney who would get a second opinion and if there was a difference in opinions between the experts, the parties would try to negotiate a settlement and avoid litigation. Since the introduction of House Bill 408 insurance companies have obviously decided to take a stand. Many of the larger insurance companies, in particular Citizens, State Farm and Tower Hill, have literally shut down negotiating settlements at all. In fact, several of these carriers have even flat told us that they will not negotiate at all unless they are sued first. How silly is that, especially since these same carries are all primarily complaining to our legislature about how much they are spending in the cost of litigation. Now you have decided to create litigation? Seems pretty counter-productive to me.
We figure they all are banking on the passage of HB 408 and that it will contain some retroactive language that would apply to all these pending claims. That is a pie in the sky as the likelihood of that happening is very slim. Second theory is that the carriers figure they can start to weed out attorneys, public adjusters or savvy homeowners who just want a quick buck. If there are those out there that just want a quick buck, well that’s not what the homeowners policy was designed to do so they may other issues. The clients we represent want to ensure their house is repaired properly, is safe and has retained as much market value as possible. These people do not fear going to trial and litigating if they are forced too. They have no other choice and nothing to lose. These insurance companies are going to learn the hard way if this behavior keeps up. If you want to weed out the bad files or people looking for a quick dollar than feel free to stand up against them but, you better take a good look at files you need to pay. While these insurance companies are watching what is going on in Tallahassee, we are scheduling trials and getting ready for the battles that will take place here locally.