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Insurance Companies Paying Claims – What are Your Rights Here in Florida?

Jeffrey R. Davis

HB 837 was indeed historic – it was a historic rights-grabbing bill by which the rich and powerful (see, global insurance industry and corporate elites) used the government to strip away our rights as Florida citizens and small business owners.

In the course of just 37 days, the government ripped away rights that we, as Floridians, have held dear for centuries. These include the right to make insurance companies pay for it when they wrongfully deny benefits and act in bad faith; the right to hold corporate apartment owners responsible when our daughters are raped by transients due to negligent security; and the right to make others pay their fair share when they negligently harm us.

Accountability and Responsibility are cornerstones of our country …. HB 837 violated the integrity of these cornerstones and gave the rich and powerful free passes for negligent and even intentional wrongdoing.

The only winners of HB 837 are the corporate elites and insurance industry – who will suck profits out of Florida; take them back to New York, Chicago, and London; and leave us, the citizens of Florida, holding the bag. Make no mistake, this “tort reform” will hurt – not help – virtually everyone besides big insurance.

Championed by the insurance industry, the new law imposes draconian limits on the ability of policyholders to hold insurance companies accountable across all lines of insurance – auto, health, life, and liability. Floridians must understand that their insurance policies are now, as a result of this bill, worth only one-half of what you paid for them.

This legislation will not reduce lawsuits or costs, it will simply save the insurance industry money to the detriment of policyholders.

It comes as no surprise that special interests beholden to corporate elites and the insurance industry, like the “James Madison Institute,” are celebrating the legislation’s passage. The new law effectively gives the global insurance industry the keys to our state and our court process.

The new law eliminates the only leverage Florida citizens had to make their insurance company act with basic honesty and fairness. Even worse, due to the fact that there are now zero consequences for bad conduct, the new law effectively encourages greedy global insurance companies to further delay, deny, and underpay claims – with carte blanche.

Floridians already pay the highest property insurance premiums in the country, and this new law will just make all of us pay more for an even less valuable product.

This year’s session was a direct assault on the rights of every Floridian by the rich and powerful who think they can dictate which rights should be preserved and which can be tossed aside.

The right to trial by JURY, not trial by government, is a right enshrined in the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. This is a right our forefathers fought, bled and died for when we revolted from England and King George III. 

Our Founding Fathers knew what was in the heart of man. They knew the rich and the powerful would try to use the government to take these rights from us again. So, they created the Bill of Rights and specifically enumerated the rights we hold inviolate that the government cannot ever take away from us again: The First Amendment, freedom of speech and freedom of religion; the Second Amendment, our right to bear arms; the Fifth Amendment, the right to remain silent; and the Seventh Amendment, the right to trial by jury in civil cases.

James Madison himself, not the corporate shill that uses his name, said, “Trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.” There is no stepchild in the Bill of Rights. HB 837 takes decisions and power away from a jury of our peers, and instead gives us trial by government.

Mr. Walsh states, “The breadth and scope of all they accomplished was stunning. Historic …. Decades from now the 2023 legislative session will be recognized as an apex for the Legislature, a turning or trigger point in Florida’s cultural and economic direction.”

While we agree the legislation was historic, we do not agree on the ultimate result. Do we value big insurance over the policyholder, the struggling middle class and Florida small business owners? Do we value big government over our rights? Do we value corporate elites over the people? 

Well, big government is alive and well, and being used by the rich and powerful to take your rights away, through this legislation. Big insurance used maximum leverage to take away your rights. This year was not a positive apex, it was a negative nadir for everyday Floridians whose rights were pawned away. The next few elections are likely to reflect a reaction to the cultural and corporate decisions lawmakers endorsed and passed this year.

The 2023 session was tailor-made for corporate elites, empowering them to grab away our right to trial by jury – and instead giving you trial by government – and free passes to the rich and powerful. 

Which right will they feel entitled to take next? Will they grab our guns? Our right to free speech?

Empowering the rich and powerful is not what this country was founded on and is not something any of us should stand for. Our nation was founded on the principles of a free and fair government that allows access to the courts for every citizen, and not only for the elite few.

Justice is the only thing preventing the insurance industry from taking over our state, limiting our freedom, and irreparably decimating the rights of our neighbors, family, and friends.

Lawmakers have a duty to protect Floridians’ rights. Unfortunately, Floridians’ voices were stifled and, in many cases, silenced during this year’s session. 

What lawmakers did this year was historic, just as Pearl Harbor and the Boston Massacre were. Your rights are ever in peril – will you stand up and fight?

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