But even a key proponent says the outlook for reform this year is poor. On Wednesday, the Florida House Commerce Committee voted 14-7 to advance a bill that would sharply restrict the ability of trial attorneys to recover fees from insurance companies after settling lawsuits tied to assignments of benefits. The bill now heads to the House floor, where it will likely pass, says Michael Carlson, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida. But some clever planning would be needed in the Senate to get a companion bill ready before committees meet for the last time on April 25, Carlson said. The House bill is intended to encourage settlements and dissuade attorneys from filing lawsuits when representing repair contractors working under post-claim assignments. If enacted, contractors and their attorneys would be entitled to attorneys fees only if they win a judgment that exceeds an insurers initial offer by a wide margin. A judgment that exceeds an insurers initial claim settlement offer by a narrower margin would result in neither side receiving attorneys fees or, if the margin is narrow enough, the insurer being entitled to attorneys fees. Insurers and their supporters mostly spoke in support of the bill, while contractors and trial attorneys mostly opposed it. The bill goes a long way toward mitigating a cost driver for Florida insurers, said David Altmaier, the state insurance commissioner.
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