TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - According to the Florida's insurance commissioner, windshield replacement schemes are driving up the price of auto insurance throughout the state.
The issue is most rampant in the Tampa Bay area.
It involves drivers with cracked windshields signing over their insurance benefits to repair contractors, some of which then pursue payments from insurance companies at inflated prices.
Known in the industry as "assignment of benefits," insurers say the practice has become riddled with fraud and abuse, often at no fault of the actual policyholder.
Under Florida law, windshield replacement claims cost nothing out of pocket for insured drivers, making it a lucrative opportunity for those looking to cheat insurance companies.
"Consumers are told that there is a crack in their windshield, and 'we can replace it right here in the parking lot for you," said David Altmaier, Florida's insurance commissioner. "We just need to sign this form please.' What this is is an assignment of benefits. They replace the windshield, and there is a dispute between the windshield company and the insurance company that goes to litigation. It begins to start to drive costs up."
According to Altmaier, there were 19,000 "assignment of benefits" related windshield claim lawsuits in the state last year.
That's up from less than 500 a decade ago.
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