Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large says auto glass litigation has led to inflated claims. | Florida Justice Reform Institute
'Fix the Cracks' campaign warns Floridians about abusive auto glass lawsuits
By Michael Carroll
Insurance and tort reform groups have launched a campaign to warn consumers about the explosive growth in auto glass litigation in Florida – a phenomenon that some observers say contributes to rising claims costs and insurance policy rates.
The campaign, called “Fix the Cracks,” was launched by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), Florida Justice Reform Institute and Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF).
The initiative aims to warn drivers of increasingly aggressive attempts by vendors to get drivers to sign over their car insurance benefits in return for windshield repairs and other incentives, such as gift cards. Vendors working with attorneys can then file inflated claims with the car insurer and take advantage of the state’s one-way attorney fee laws – a process that drives up the cost of insurance, those involved in “Fix the Cracks” say.
The campaign’s goal is to protect consumers from predatory auto glass claims, ensure vehicle passenger safety and advocate for legislative changes.
“It is a crime to file a fraudulent insurance claim in Florida, such as auto glass repairs or windshield replacements where no damage existed,” Eric De Campos, the NICB’s government affairs director, said in a prepared statement. “This is occurring often in Florida as consumers are being solicited and offered incentives to file false or fraudulently inflated auto glass insurance claims.”
Campaign supporters say the practice of assignment of benefits (AOB), whereby policyholders sign over their insurance rights to a vendor, is to blame for much of the current crisis.
“The Florida Legislature passed AOB property insurance reform in 2019, but auto glass claims abuse was left out,” Michael Carlson, president and CEO of PIFF, said in a statement emailed to the Florida Record. “The AOB auto glass loophole, supported by the one-way attorney fee law, is the latest machine for some to profit at the expense of auto insurance consumers.”
During the decade ending in 2021, the number of auto glass lawsuits in Florida jumped by more than 4,000%, from 591 in 2011 to 28,156 in 2021, according to a database maintained by the state Department of Financial Services.
An NICB analysis found that Florida and Arizona had the highest number of questionable auto glass claims among the 50 states in 2020, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the total number of questionable auto glass claims in the nation. Florida topped the ranking with 497,251 claims, with Arizona following with 394,163 such claims.
Research carried out by the Florida Justice Reform Institute indicates that only a handful of law firms are behind the auto-glass AOB litigation in Florida, with filings occurring in a small number of counties where these law firms operate.
“Vendors use these assignments to seize the policyholder's special one-way attorney fee right under statute and file expensive lawsuits based on inflated claims,” William Large, the institute’s president, said in a statement. “Many of these lawsuits happen without the policyholder's knowledge or informed consent.”