Before I let you in on an important development in the fight against Assignment of Benefits (AOB), let’s set the stage by reviewing how we got to this point.
What is this point? I call it the “Tipping Point”. The point where someone on the other side admits that our side is right.
Since my first AOB blog in March 2013, titled; “The next big rip off!”, I’ve done my best to tell you everything I knew or learned, good or bad, about AOB. This, despite the risks, which includes threats of lawsuits; one just a few weeks back.
So…preliminary to sharing this “tipping point” with you, here’s a general summary of my blogs and conclusions that got us here:
1) No water extractor, roofer, emergency remediator, or vendor of any type actually needs to use AOB. Despite testimony, including from some members of The Florida Association of Restoration Specialists (FLARS) that they could go out of business without AOB, I’ve told my readers to avoid recommending those who use (and thus are likely to abuse) the practice. It’s a red flag. AOB means something is amiss. Assertions by AOB abusers that they need AOB to stay in business are bogus. To the contrary; they need AOB to force payment of inflated or fraudulent invoices. Any water extractor, for example, can do as hundreds of honest ones already do–simply use other methods to both help the consumer and insure payment of legitimate invoices. The approach most often used is called a “direction to pay” which is what conscientious, honest water extractors (like RyTech) use.
2) Since FLARS members and lobbyists argue so hard against reforming AOB, I’ve cautioned my readership and especially insurance agents to avoid recommending FLARS members for remediation work. After all, they are more likely to use AOB, and/or abuse it, based on FLARS sponsored workshops spreading “Insider Secrets”–or to otherwise engage in practices I consider red flags for potential consumer abuse. In a conversation I had with a FLARS lawyer, I was told that some of its members don’t use AOB. “Really?” I should’ve asked “..then how can they stay in business when their fellow members claim they’d go out of business without it?” The “tipping point” announcement below, which is what prompted this post, answers part of that question.
3) AOB exists, and is abused, because those with a low moral compass need to facilitate a litigation for profit scheme. It’s an excuse to sue and collect exorbitant fees, often without even having to go to court. Emergency remediators are coached/encouraged (often by their attorneys) on how to “squeeze” insurers who, rightfully, deny or delay payment of inflated invoices. The vendors are told…”Call us to make sure you (still, always) get paid!” (See NOTE#1 below)
4) Finally, in the case of roofers, the Florida Roofing & Sheet Metal Association (FRSA) opposes AOB and testified it ought to be “prohibited”. I’ve spoken with their lobbyist who told me “most don’t even know what it is.” Like too many water extractors who abuse AOB, roofers who use it are predominantly “fly-by-nighters” or much worse– giving the rest of the roofing industry a bad name.
Now, back to “The Tipping Point” where the other side begins to agree!
You may recall that during my testimony in February to the House Insurance Workshop on AOB, I sat next to Jon Lavender, owner of Insurance Fire and Water Restorations (IFW). He extolled the virtues of AOB on behalf of FLARS and thus its members; Florida’s independent water restoration vendors. You can listen to his comments beginning at about the 1:00:00 mark here.
That was February. Now, six months later, Mr. Lavender is acknowledging widespread abuse of AOB and declaring that he and his company will no longer employ the practice.
In essence the FLARS spokesman repudiates the FLARS position and thus the positions, I suspect, of the independent restoration vendors that constitute the bulk of FLARS members. It’s also likely that his new stance conflicts with some law firms like Cohen & Battisti, Hale & Jacobson, and others that are among those filing huge numbers of AOB suits.
Don’t trust me on this. Draw your own conclusions by reading Mr. Lavenders entire letter yourself. As for his lobbying trips to Tallahassee, he states:
“We were stunned to learn of all of the abuse that is taking place among other companies. We certainly didn’t want to be associated with the abusers. So, due to the unethical practices of AOB’s from numerous restoration companies throughout the state along with hundreds of plumbers, roofers, and contractors, we had made the decision to no longer use this legal document.”
Frankly, I respect Mr. Lavender for reversing course based on new information. It proves he was one of the good guys all along. It also proves, at least to me, that those who refrain from acting similarly to Mr. Lavender, are the opposite.
What happens now is anyone’s guess. Will Mr. Lavender take up arms on behalf of the AOB reform effort? Why not; if, as he wrote, AOB leads to “unethical practices…by hundreds of plumbers, roofers, and contractors”.
Will his competitors still clinging to AOB have difficulty claiming they need AOB to stay in business? You bet they will! Their own spokesman is tacitly proving by his actions that such assertions are false.
Here’s the thing…
Even if Mr. Lavender doesn’t lobby to reform AOB, his letter will shout volumes.
Especially when read aloud at televised hearings immediately following a presentation by the poor sap replacing him as FLARS spokesman.
Welcome to the “Tipping Point!”
NOTE #1: As usual, don’t take my word for the abusive litigation practices; instead read two cases where the judge explains it better. Both of these judges are apparently fed up with procedural shenanigans and fraud. Both not only dismisses their claims and award attorney fees to the defendant insurer but, one appears to excoriate the attorneys and/or their cottage industry clients for abusing consumers and the legal system. I will be opining on these cases and others in more detail in a future blog, but…you can read them now here: NextGen Restorations vs Homeowners Choice. And here: Springhill Builders vs State Farm. Please let me know if you know of other similar cases I can share with my readers.
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