Linda Stewart files bill to fix cracked auto glass repairs

Sen. Linda Stewart introduced legislation this week that would ban the assignment of auto glass repair claims, a reform long sought by insurers.

Assignment of Benefits, or AOB, is a legal process that allows policyholders to transfer their insurance benefits to a third party in exchange for a quick repair. Insurance companies say AOB lawsuits are one of the top reasons for premium increases.

Stewart’s bill (SB 1002) follows one filed last month by Rep. Griff Griffitts (HB 541) that would also end AOBs for windshield and other glass repairs. Stewart’s bill would go a step further and ban garages from offering gift cards, cash or other pot sweeteners to lure customers.

“We’ve all seen the signs offering us cash or gift cards to have our windshields replaced,” Stewart said.

“These incentives sound great, but the reality is that some of these services use you to sue your insurance company for more money than the replacement actually costs. This behavior ultimately contributes to ever-increasing auto insurance rates as insurers hike rates to recover losses from this practice.”

Stewart’s Orange County district hosted 28% of auto glass lawsuits filed in 2022. Data from the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Service of Process database shows that just 20 attorneys were responsible for 95% of auto glass lawsuits filed last year.

AOB restrictions have been proposed in the last several legislative sessions and legislation restricting their use in property insurance claims has been successful. However, despite multiple efforts, there has been no meaningful reform of the auto glass lawsuits.

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The new bills come amid a surge in another practice that insurers say is fraught with abuse – the calibration of advanced driver-assistance features. The Senate bill would require customers to receive a notice explaining why they need a recalibration in order for some of their car’s components to function properly.

“Today’s cars have a lot of new features built into the windshield to improve driver safety,” Stewart said. “Without notification that these systems need to be calibrated after a windshield replacement, drivers could find themselves in dangerous situations or surprised by the cost and possibly have to pay out of pocket to have these functions calibrated.”

A coalition of insurance and compensation reform groups known as “Fix the Cracks” said it supports both bills, as well as the broader compensation claims reform package (HB 837) sponsored by Rep. Tommy Gregory with support from Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leadership .

“Auto glass abuse is becoming more prevalent and most consumers are unaware that their insurance company has been sued on their behalf,” said Michael Carlson, president and CEO of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.

“The game is up. It is open for all to see. Lawmakers want to end this madness and we are grateful to Senator Stewart and Rep. Griffitts for being among those up to the challenge.”

Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large added: “Gov. DeSantis called for legislation to create a more predictable, stable legal environment, and HB 837, HB 541 and SB 1002 will do just that.”

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