State insurance leaders worry about auto glass claim lawsuits in Bay area

TAMPA, Fla. - Before you go to get that windshield replaced for free if you have comprehensive coverage in Florida, insurers want to warn you to watch out for auto glass fraud, especially during the summer months. 

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America found auto glass repair schemes are becoming an example of assignment of benefits (AOB) in Florida.

AOB abuse occurs when third party companies ask you to sign permission for them to work with your insurance directly when replacing your auto glass windshields. 

The PCI says companies in Florida are taking advantage of the system in Florida, where there's a zero dollar deductible if you have comprehensive coverage. 

In many cases, repair companies are approaching people in parking lots, and car washes offering incentives -- or eye catching offers. 

"These shops aren't affiliated with the insurance companies," said Bob Passmore, PCI's assistant vice president of personal lines policy.  "They may inflate the glass claim and then turn around and sue the insurance company, often without the policyholder's knowledge."

In a cabinet meeting last week, Florida's Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said customers could pay higher premiums down the road with the rise in auto glass litigation claims. 

He added this is most frequent in the Bay area but could not give a reason why the numbers have gone up. 

The PCI cited in 2006 there were 400 auto glass AOB lawsuits filed against auto insurers, but in 2016 nearly 20,000 lawsuits were filed. 

Passmore says the Florida legislature needs to step in to protect consumers from AOB abuse, "data shows skyrocketing litigation is driving up insurance costs for consumers."

ABC Action News stopped by Safelite AutoGlass off North 301 where they tell us they fix at least 70 car windshields a day. Safelite is referred to by most insurance companies as a place to go for repairs. 

The first step if you have a crack or hole in your windshield: check your coverage to make sure you have comprehensive coverage, then call your insurance company and ask for referrals, and also be wary of being approached in parking lots.

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