‘Blue tarp’ bills hurt consumers

May 12, 2017 GMT

Companion bills in the Legislature would lower the penalty for insurance companies that delay payments for property damage, force many claims into a slower-moving federal court system that has too many judge slots empty, and make it more difficult for attorneys representing property owners to get proper attorney fees awarded by the courts.

These are measures championed in broad brush by the governor and lieutenant governor — and now passed in the House. They are billed as reform to save consumers money and the insurance industry from predatory trial lawyers. But these proposed laws describe a hailstorm claims crisis that substantially does not exist on a statewide basis.


And while proponents say they have limited the claims affected by the legislation to those “weather related,” the House bill — HB 1774 — refers to damages caused by “earthquakes or earth tremors, a wildfire, a flood, a tornado, lightning, a hurricane, hail, wind, a snowstorm or a rainstorm.” The companion bill is SB 10.

This is not protection for consumers. It is incentive for attorneys to not take cases representing property owners against insurance companies. Proponents of the bill claim spurious lawsuits, but laws already exist to deal with those who file frivolous claims.

These bills are aptly coined the blue-tarp bills because of the coverings property owners would have to put over their houses because they don’t have the money to fix damages. But guess who won’t be hurting? Insurance companies have made more than $4.5 billion in profit since 2012.

Don’t make it harder for consumers to make claims or to find attorneys to fight their cases.

Property owners pay insurance premiums on the expectation that these companies will come through if and when needed.

Don’t make it easier for them to evade those responsibilities.