Assignment of benefits
Talk to insurer before you sign
My wife and I fell prey to what we believe was "assignment of benefits" (AOB) abuse. After signing what we thought was a contract to repair our kitchen sink leak, we quickly ended up in a legal battle that took well more than a year to resolve. Since AOB is a binding contract, we lost. AOB abuse is rampant in Florida.
In January 2017, I noticed a small leak under our kitchen sink. I later called a plumber who claimed there was mold and he couldn't make the repairs until it was cleared. We later found out the plumber received $800 from one of the mold remediation companies he suggested, and there was no mold. At that time we presumed we did indeed have a bigger problem. When the remediation man asked to see our insurance policy he said it was excellent. In fact, we'd have a new kitchen and be able to take a vacation during the repair; it would all be covered. We signed the AOB, not knowing we had just relinquished our rights and unwittingly put our insurer at their mercy.
The contractor said as a service to us, he would work directly with our insurer and file the claim on our behalf. We could just relax. Instead, they tore up half our kitchen and submitted an estimate for $26,000, claiming more work than was necessary. The insurance adjuster later estimated repairs at $11,700. Unfortunately, we had no say in the matter because we had signed the AOB and weren't able to get out of it.
Having lived through this ordeal, we urge all policyholders to call their insurer first before signing any paperwork. Please don't make the same mistake we did. Thank goodness, the Florida Senate is taking up the matter next week.
Charles and Wendy Snellgrove, Clearwater
Bill aims to boost driving safety | Feb. 25
Better priorities needed
Rep. Jackie Toledo and Sen. Wilton Simpson are touting an extremely broad bill, one that would make any "distracted driving" a primary offense, allowing police to stop motorists even in the absence of any other evidence of carelessness (drifting between lanes, erratic speed, etc.). Moreover, as it is worded, it gives police officers almost unlimited discretion to decide for themselves what constitutes "distraction." In addition to the obvious concerns about potential abuses by law enforcement, I wonder why this issue is being prioritized by the GOP legislators of the "Gunshine State"? It is worth noting that in 2017 about 233 Floridians died in traffic accidents attributed to distracted driving. That same year, 2,724 died from gun violence. It really makes you wonder about how the GOP sets priorities for our Legislature.
Gregg Niemi, Tampa
We should pursue clean, renewable energy | Column, Feb. 26
Florida needs energy justice
The energy discussion is a human rights discussion. All people in all places need to consume energy in order to survive. Some people waste a lot of energy, and others will be fortunate if they can pay for a few light bulbs and a stove. As the climate change problem develops, the need for energy use in the southern states will increase, because of the increased need for air conditioning and other services. What's needed is a program that will provide all families with an adequate supply of energy that's safe, affordable and sustainable. The political leaders who make energy justice happen will win the hearts and votes of Florida.
Robert Murphy, Tarpon Springs