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More Fireworks Accidents / DUI checkpoints on 4th of July

4th of July DUI and Firework statistics

As we pack our bags and load our families into the car for the time honored tradition of 4th of July weekend travel, be aware of the conditions around you.  If driving, be sure to focus on the road and avoid distractions.  This holiday weekend is traditionally the deadliest time to be on the road. 

Even if you choose not to enjoy the Holiday with a refreshing cocktail, remember many others do.  It may not be your driving that causes an accident.  Always be aware of the vehicles around you. 

If you do choose to consume alcohol, remember to be responsible when determining whether to operate a motor vehicle.  Law enforcement agencies all around Florida will have additional officers patrolling for suspected DUI offenders, even setting up checkpoints on popular travel routes.  The easiest way to avoid the possibility of running afoul of the law is to have a designated driver or use ride-share programs like Uber or Lyft.  If you don’t follow this simple advice and find yourself on the wrong side of the law, Cohen Law Group can still help your situation by vigorously defending you against any DUI related charges.

In 2014, over the 4th of July holiday, 164 people were killed in automible accidents with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. That is 41% of the 397 people killed over the 4th of July Period.

Spending your Holiday on the water?  Be sure to keep safety on your mind.  Boating in Florida can be enjoyable for the entire family, but it can also be dangerous.  Make sure your vessel meets all local and federal safety requirements.  Always be aware of other boaters as they may not have extensive experience operating a water vessel.  And remember, DUI laws apply to the operation of a marine vessel within the waterways and jurisdiction of Florida.  If you find yourself charged with DUI while operating a water vessel, Cohen Law Group can help by evaluating your case and defending your rights.

July is already the highest month for boat accidents but the 4th of july weekend is the highest weekend of the year for boat accidents

Boat Accidents

https://www.uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2014.pdf

Detailed Traffic Statistics as report by the Florida Highway Patrol for 2011
Florida State Troopers:

  • Charged 90 people with DUI
  • Issued 8,541 Traffic Citations
  • Issued 3,257 Speeding Tikcets
  • Issued 1,060 Seatbelt violations
  • Assisted 2,221 Motorists

Lastly, fireworks are a fun part of many families Holiday celebration.  While exciting and fun, they can also cause serious injury if used incorrectly.  Always have an adult present when using fireworks.  Do not use old fireworks as they may be damaged or operate improperly.  And remain a safe distance from any fireworks being set off.  If you find yourself injured during a fireworks display or injure yourself, Cohen Law Group can review your situation to determine if there may be coverage for your injuries. 

Fireworks Injuries

 

 

  • In 2014 there was an estimated 10,500 Fireworks related Injuries 
  • There was an estimate 11 deathes realted to fireworks in 2014

http://www.cpsc.gov/global/research-and-statistics/injury-statistics/fuel-lighters-and-fireworks/fireworks_report_2014.pdf

The 4th of July Holiday weekend is a time to relax and enjoy family and friends.  But if that enjoyment is interrupted by law enforcement or injury, CohenGrossman is there to help protect your rights.  

Florida Restaurants unite for #OrlandoStrong

oneorlandofundlogo

Please join us in supporting orlando.

On June 30,  all proceeds raised will be donated to the OneOrlando Fund.

 

For more infor go to https://www.frla.org/dine-out-orlando/

Below are a listing of restaurants that are participating around the state.

The 4 Three Nine, Saint Petersburg
4 Rivers Smokehouse, All Florida locations
45 Central Wine Bar, Santa Rosa Beach
60 South Restaurant & Bar at the Doubletree By Hilton Orlando Downtown
310 Restaurants, All locations
400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, Saint Petersburg
717 South, Tampa
1500 South by Chef Art Smith, Naples
1884 Restaurant and Bar, Eustis
A Land Remembered at Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando
Abe’s Place Tap & Grill, Clearwater
Alfies Restaurant, Ormond Beach
American Kitchen Bar & Grill at B Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista
American Social Bar & Kitchen, Fort Lauderdale
Amigos Original Tex Mex Restaurant & Cantina, Altamonte Springs
Anna Maria Oyster Bar, All locations
Another Broken Egg, Lake Mary & Winter Park
Applebee’s, Orlando, Tampa, Panama City, Tallahassee, Gainesville area locations
Applebee’s, South Florida, Southwest Florida and Jacksonville area locations
Aqua Prime Seafood & Steaks, Indian Rocks Beach
Armani’s at Grand Hyatt Tampa
Asia Kitchen, Winter Park
The Attic Door, Winter Garden
Ava, Tampa
The Avenue Eat/Drink, Saint Petersburg
BackStreets Sports Bar, Cape Coral
Baoery Asian Gastropub, Orlando
Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria, Winter Springs
The Bay South Walton, Santa Rosa Beach
Beach Bar at Pier House Resort & Spa, Key West
The Beach House Restaurant, Bradenton Beach
bd’s Mongolian Grill, Lakeland
Beefy King, Orlando
Bella Bella, Tallahassee
Bella Brava, Saint Petersburg
Bella Tuscany Ristorante Italiano, Windermere
Bern’s Steak House, Tampa
Berties Good Eats, Daytona Beach
Better Than Sex Dessert Restaurant, Key West
The Birch & Vine at The Birchwood, Saint Petersburg
The Bistro at Marriott Courtyard Cocoa Beach
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Florida locations
Black Sheep Restaurant, Jacksonville
Blaze Pizza, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, Sarasota
blu on the avenue, Winter Park
Blue Bamboo, Jacksonville
Blue Door Farm Stand, Chicago, IL
Blue Door Kitchen & Garden, Chicago, IL
Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber, Clearwater Beach
The Boheme Restaurant at Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando
Bolay Restaurant, Royal Palm Beach
Bonefish Grill, All Florida locations
Bongos Cuban Café Orlando
Bongos Cuban Café Hollywood
Bösendorfer Lounge at Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando
Boston Lobster Feast, Orlando & Kissimmee
Bowland, All locations
Brevard Zoo, Melbourne
Brimstone Woodfire Grill, Pembroke Pines
Broadway Ristorante & Pizzeria, All locations
Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, West Palm Beach
Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant, Santa Rosa Beach
Buffalo Wild Wings, All Florida locations
Bull & Crown Public House, Saint Augustine
Burger Craft, Clermont
Burger U, UCF
Café Chardonnay, Palm Beach Gardens
Cafe Gala at the Dali Museum, Saint Petersburg
Cafe Tu Tu Tango, Orlando
Cala Bella at Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando
California Pizza Kitchen Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
Canvas Restaurant & Market, Orlando
Capa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort
Carrabba’s Italian Grille, All Florida locations
Cask & Larder, Winter Park
Catch Grill + Bar at Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay
The Catfish Place, Apopka
Charlie Mac’s BBQ, Key West
Chick-fil-A, Orange, Osceola, Lake & Seminole county locations
Chick-fil-A, Westfield Sarasota Square, Edgewater, Port Orange Gateway Center locations
Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, Orlando
Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Kissimmee & Orlando locations
The Cider Press Cafe, Naples & Saint Petersburg
Citrus Restaurant, Orlando
Cocina 214, Winter Park
Colorado Fondue Company, Casselberry
Compass Grill at Sirata Beach Resort, Saint Pete Beach
The Coop, Winter Park
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, All Florida locations
Cooters Restaurant & Bar, Clearwater Beach
Craig Miller’s Field House, Orlando
The Chef’s Table at the Edgewater, Winter Garden
Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, Orlando
The Crooked Spoon Gastropub, Clermont
Charley’s Steak House, All locations
Chicago q, Chicago, IL
Chuck Wagon Home Cooking, Apopka
Cork & Fork American Grill, Orlando
Crispers, All Florida locations
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, Orlando
Dave’s Last Resort & Raw Bar, Lake Worth
Don Juan’s Mexican Restaurant, Jacksonville
Donatello Italian Restaurant, Tampa
Duffy’s Sports Grill, All locations
Durango Steakhouse, Titusville
Earl of Sandwhich, Lake Buena Vista
EDGE at Epicurean Hotel, Tampa
The Edison, Tallahassee
Elements Bar & Grille at Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal
Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ, Ocoee
Emeril’s Orlando
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando
Everglades Restaurant at Rosen Centre Hotel, Orlando
Evo Italian Restaurant, Tequesta
Falcon’s Nest at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
The Fat Snook, Cocoa Beach
F&D Kitchen & Bar, Lake Mary
Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at Hyatt Regency Orlando
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Orlando
First Watch, Maitland, Longwood, Plaza Venezia, Winter Garden, UCF, Aloma, Mills Park locations
Fish City Grill, Lakeland
FishBones, Orlando & Lake Mary
Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill, Cape Canaveral
Five Star Pizza, Central FL locations
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, All Florida locations
Flippers Pizzeria, Orlando, Clermont, Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista & UCF
Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse, Orlando
Froyo Fresh, Tampa
Funky Monkey Bistro & Bar, Orlando
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Sarasota
Gator’s Dockside, Central Florida locations
Glory Days Grill, All Florida locations
Grandaddy’s, Harmony
GrassLands Brewing Company, Tallahassee
Great Southern Cafe, Santa Rosa Beach
Green Parrot Bar, Key West
Grille 401, Fort Lauderdale
Grub Burger Bar, Tallahassee
Half Shell Raw Bar, Key West
Hamilton’s Kitchen at the Alfond Inn, Winter Park
The Hangar, Saint Petersburg
Harry’s Beach Bar at Sirata Beach Resort, Saint Pete Beach
Hash House A Go Go, Orlando
Hawkers Asian Street Fare, All locations
Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key
Haven, Tampa
HeadPinz, Cape Coral & Fort Myers
Hemingway’s  at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
High Tide Harry’s, Orlando
Highball & Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grand Lakes
Holy Hog BBQ, Tampa
House of Pizza, Orlando
House of Blues Orlando
Hubbly Bubbly Falafel Shop, Orlando
Hurricane Seafood Restaurant, St Pete Beach
ICEBAR Orlando
Icy Paradise, Daytona Beach
IHOP, Florida locations
Imperial Wine Bar & Beer Garden, Orlando
Island Dogs Bar & Restaurant, Key West
Jack’s Place at Rosen Plaza Hotel, Orlando
Jason’s Deli, Orlando & Southwest Florida locations
Jax 5th Ave Deli & Ale House, Lake Mary
Johnnie’s Hideaway, Orlando
Johnny Rockets The Pointe, Orlando
Jové Kitchen & Bar at Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
K Restaurant, Orlando
Kahwa Coffee, Saint Petersburg
Kelly’s Landing New England Seafood, Fort Lauderdale
Kiki’s Sandbar, Little Torch Key
Kings Orlando
KING’s Street Food Counter, Saint Petersburg
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Kissimmee, Orlando, Winter Park locations
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, All Orlando & Tampa locations
La Mar by Gaston Acurio at Mandarin Oriental, Miami
La Storia Ristorante, Chicago
Larios on the Beach, Miami Beach
Lazy Lobster of Longboat, Longboat Key
Lee Roy Selmon’s, All locations
Liam Fitzpatrick’s Restaurant & Irish Pub, Lake Mary
Lighthouse Lobster Feast, Orlando
Lofty Pursuits, Tallahassee
Luma on Park, Winter Park
Madison Social, Tallahassee
Mama Della’s Ristorante at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando
Magnolia Grill, Fort Walton Beach
MainStay Suites, Port Saint Joe
The Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant, Longboat Key
Margaritaville, Destin, Key West, Miami Airport, Panama City Beach
Marche Burrette Deli at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
Maria’s Italian Restaurant, Cape Coral
Marina Bar & Grill, Sandestin
Marlow’s Tavern, All Florida locations
The Meatball Stoppe, Orlando
Mediterranean BLUE, Orlando
Mellow Mushroom, Orlando, Winter Park & International Drive
The Melting Pot, Boca Raton
The Melting Pot, Coral Springs
The Melting Pot, Fort Myers
The Melting Pot, Longwood
The Melting Pot, Orlando
The Melting Pot, Saint Petersburg
The Melting Pot, Sarasota
The Melting Pot, Tallahassee
Melts On Main Street, Winter Garden
Metro Diner, All Florida locations
Miller’s Ale House, All locations nationwide
Mojo, Fort Lauderdale
MoonFish, Orlando
Morimoto Asia, Walt Disney World
Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails, Jacksonville
Mulligan’s Beach House, All locations
Murray Bros. Caddy Shack, Saint Augustine
Nature’s Table, Participating locations
Nine 18 at Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando
Noble Crust, Saint Petersburg
Nolan’s Irish Pub, Cocoa Beach
Noodles & Company, Orlando locations
North Quarter Tavern, Orlando
Nothing Bundt Cakes, Orlando Sand Lake Road location
O Bistro, Saint Petersburg
Oasis Restaurant at Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport at Town Center
Ocean Prime, Orlando
Oceans 234, Deerfield Beach
Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, Columbia, SC
Oleys Kitchen & BBQ, Orlando
Olio, Jacksonville
Olive Branch Mediterranean-Italian Grille & Bar, Mount Dora
The Original Crabby Bill’s, Indian Rocks Beach
The Other End Restaurant & Beergarden, Destin
Outback Steakhouse, All Florida locations
The Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen College Park, Orlando
Oystercatchers at Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay
Paradiso 37, Lake Buena Vista
Paramount Fine Foods, All locations
Parkshore Grille, Saint Petersburg
Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, Viera
Phat Thai Cafe, Apopka
Pho 88 Noodle Restaurant, Orlando Mills Ave location
Pho Hoa Restaurant, Orlando
Pieology Pizzeria, Ponte Vedra
Pinon Grill, Boca Raton
PizzAmore, Mount Dora
Pizza Hut, Central Florida, All Central Florida locations
The Port Inn, Port Saint Joe
Portobello, Orlando
Prato, Winter Park
The Pub at Pointe Orlando
The Pub Waterfront Restaurant, Indian Shores
Raglan Road Irish Pub, Lake Buena Vista
Rainforest Cafe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Rainforest Cafe at Disney Springs™, Lake Buena Vista
Ravello at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort
The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park
Rita’s, Orlando East & Apopka
Red Robin, All Florida locations
Residence Inn by Marriott, Amelia Island
Restaurant ASH, Orlando
Ritter’s Frozen Custard, Port Orange
Rose Villa Southern Table & Bar, Ormond Beach
Rum Barrel Bar & Grill, Key West
Rum Runners Bar & Grille at Sirata Beach Resort, Saint Pete Beach
RumFish Grill at Guy Harvey Outpost, St Pete Beach
RusTeak Restaurant & Wine Bar, Ocoee & Orlando
The Rusty Spoon, Orlando
Ruth’s Chris Steak House, All Florida locations
Sally O’Neal’s Pizza Hotline, Tampa
The Sandbar Restaurant, Anna Maria
Sandy Hook Fish & Rib House, Matlacha
Santiago’s Bodega, Altamonte Springs
Santiago’s Bodega, Orlando
Scolapasta Bistro, Fort Lauderdale
Seafood Shack, Marina, Bar & Grill, Cortez
Shake Shack, Winter Park,  I-Drive
Shakers American Cafe, Orlando
Shogun at Rosen Inn, Orlando
Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Sarasota
Sinclair’s Ocean Grill at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, Jupiter
SLATE, Orlando
Smith & Adams Confections, Orlando
Soco Restaurant, Orlando
Sonesta, Fort Lauderale Beach
Souzou, Saint Petersburg
Spatz Deli & Billiards, Winter Park
Spoto’s Oyster Bar, Palm Beach Gardens
Square 1 Burgers & Bar, Winter Park
Stillwaters Tavern, Saint Petersburg
Something Fishy, Apopka
Sonny’s BBQ, Central Florida locations
Splitsville Luxury Lanes, Orlando
Starbucks Coffee Company, Participating Orlando locations
STK Orlando
Sugar Daddy Bakery, Orlando
Suncoast Cafe, Venice
Sushi Maki, Miami area locations
Sweet Frog, Altamonte Springs & Orlando Avalon Park
Sweet Frog, Daytona Beach & Port Orange
Sweet Frog, Jupiter
Sweet Frog, Riverside Jacksonville & Town Center Jacksonville
Swine & Sons Provisions, Winter Park
Taberna del Caballo, Saint Augustine
Taboon Bistro, Orlando
Tampa Airport Marriott, Tampa
Taproom at Dubsdread, Orlando
The Tasting Room at The Chef’s Table, Winter Garden
Teak Neighborhoord Grill, Orlando
Tee Jay Thai Sushi, Wilton Manors
Texas Cattle Company, Lakeland & Saint Petersburg
TGI Fridays, Central Florida locations
The Tennessee Truffle, Sanford
The Thirsty Goat, Port Saint Joe
Tijuana Flats, All Central Florida locations
Tommy Bahama, Jupiter, Naples, Orlando, Sandestin, Sarasota
Tony Roma’s International Drive, Orlando
T-REX at Disney Springs™, Lake Buena Vista
TR Fire Grill, Winter Park
Tryst, Saint Petersburg
Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, Miramar Beach
Turners Kitchen + Bar, Leesburg
Turtle Kraals Bar & Grill, Key West
Umi, Winter Park
Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, Ocala
Union Public House, Pensacola
University Center Club, Tallahassee
Uno Pizzeria & Grill, Florida locations
Uptown Cafe & Catering, Tallahassee
Urban Flats, Winter Garden
Verandah at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
Vito’s Chop House, Orlando
The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club
vomFASS, Winter Garden
The Wave Kitchen & Bar at Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa, Vero Beach
Which Wich? Superior Sandwiches, Orlando Doc Phillips location
Whirly Dome, Orlando
Windjammers Restaurant, Clearwater Beach
Wolfgang Puck Cafe, Orlando
WonderWorks Orlando Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show, Orlando
World of Beer, Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, UCF area
Yak & Yeti at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The Zenith Company
Zona Fresca Fresh Mexican Grill, Winter Park

Is Weed Legal in Florida? New Orlando Florida Marijuana Laws

The times they are a changing!  The City Beautiful, Orlando that is, recently adopted a new city ordinance relating to the possession of small amounts of Marijuana and some paraphernalia.  By a narrow 4-3 vote, the city enacted the ordinance which allows for civil remedies on possession of less than 20grams of Marijuana.  This ordinance takes effect October 1, 2016.

Under the new ordinance, persons in possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and paraphernalia would be eligible to receive a citation as opposed to arrest or a notice to appear for a misdemeanor charge.  For first time offenders, a $100.00 fine would be imposed.  For a second offense, a $200.00 fine would be imposed.  For third and subsequent offenses, there would be a required court appearance and $500.00 fine.  If an offender cannot afford or chooses not to pay the fine, they can perform eight hours of community service or attend an eight hour substance abuse education course to satisfy the fine.

While this is a step in the right direction, there are still many questions left to be answered.  The ordinance does not replace the existing Florida Statute which makes possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and/or paraphernalia a 1st degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $1000.00 fine.  Thus, law enforcement is still able to arrest someone within city limits for possession.  Law enforcement has stated that they still will retain the right to use discretion in determining if someone should receive a citation or face arrest.  But what does this discretion mean?  Previous criminal history surely will be a factor. As will factors such as was the marijuana for personal use or for sale.  But will other factors come into play such as the persons attitude, the time of day, a particular neighborhood, or race?... Only time will tell.

Moving forward, this is a good first step.  But if you decide to venture out after October 1, 2016 with less than 20 grams of marijuana remember the following:

This ordinance is only enforceable within Orlando city limits.  That means you need to know where the city borders are.  Outside of Orlando city limits, local law enforcement or the Orange County Sherriff’s office will not be able to offer you this program and you can be arrested under the Florida Criminal Statute. 

UCF does not fall within the Orlando city limits.  Additionally, UCF follows state laws, so even if Orange County passed a similar ordinance, students on campus would still be punishable under the Florida Criminal Statutes.

Officers within Orlando city limits have the “discretion” to use this citation.  They will always retain the right to arrest you, even for having less than 20 grams. 

That there is no clear answer on the potential effect receiving such a citation will have.  Under Florida law, paying a civil citation such as a speeding ticket is effectively an admission of guilt.  What effect will paying these citations cause?  Would paying the citation reflect an admission of guilt?  What effect would receiving such a citation have on admission or standing at public schools or universities?  What effect would receiving such a citation have on business licensing both within the city and elsewhere?  What about professional licenses?  What about the eligibility for future Pre Trial Diversion programs offered by the Courts and State Attorney’s offices?

That the odor of burning marijuana will remain probable cause for law enforcement to subject you and potentially your property to search.  If you possess other contraband such as a weapon or other illegal controlled substances, you can still be charged criminally for those items.

These questions will ultimately be answered over time.  But until they are, use caution in determining the possible effects this ordinance may have on you.

State Flags Insurer's Proposed Assignment Of Benefits Restrictions

Insurance claim Homeowners2

According to Ron Hurtibise with the Sun Sentinel, one of South Florida's largest property insurance companies has been rebuffed by state insurance regulators for seeking Assignment of Benefits restrictions that were disapproved two years ago.

Clearwater-based Heritage Property & Casualty, which is seeking a 14.9 percent rate increase this year, in April sought to require a mortgage lender's approval before a policyholder can sign over a post-claim benefit to a repair contractor.

The company withdrew the request May 26, a day after regulators warned the filing would be disapproved.

Heritage officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Ken Duboff, a North Miami-based plaintiff's attorney who has filed hundreds of lawsuits against insurance companies, called the proposed restriction "an end-around the public policy permitting a post-loss assignment by the policyholder."

Assignment of Benefits is the focus of an ongoing battle between insurers and repair contractors in Florida. Insurers say repair contractors coerce homeowners to sign over the right to claim benefits before starting repair work, then submit inflated claims and sue if the claim is denied or underpaid. Numerous insurers are seeking rate increases in South Florida, citing heavy losses from water claims and lawsuits.

Contractors and their attorneys counter that insurers too often deny legitimate claims and have eroded the value of property insurance with additional restrictions and exclusions.

Insurers continue to seek Assignment of Benefits restrictions despite failure of recent efforts in the courts and the state legislature.

A May 25 email from analyst Cindy Walden to Heritage stated that its policy revision "includes Assignment of Benefits language similar to that disapproved" in filings by Security First Insurance Co. in 2014.

In the 2014 disapproval, regulators told Security First that its filing - which sought the ability to invalidate assignments that lacked written consent of all "insureds" and "mortgagee(s)" named in the policy - violated "the intent and meaning" of state law.

Prior to the disapproval, similarly worded restrictions were in policies filed by Heritage and other companies, including Federated, People's Trust, Florida Peninsula and Tower Hill, in 2012 and 2013 when the state had temporarily stopped reviewing policy language and instead allowed insurers to certify that their policy language complied with the law.

At that time, the office said changes in state law had created "a high number of form filings" that "taxed" its review resources. State law allowed suspension of review if "not desirable or necessary for the protection of the public," the office said.

Some insurers took advantage of the suspension by slipping "egregious" changes into their policies, said Jay Neal, president of the Florida Association for Insurance Reform. But with review reinstated, the state's flagging of Heritage's proposed revisions shows "if someone tries to push the issue, that's something the office will deal with," he said.

After efforts to restrict Assignment of Benefits rights failed in the spring legislative session, state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. secured approval of policy changes limiting spending for emergency repairs, preventing permanent work to begin until insurers have a chance to inspect damages and reducing the scope of repairs to just the damaged portions of broken systems.

State regulators signaled to other insurers that they could secure quick approval of identical revisions, and dozens of companies have filed for approval of the same language.

But Heritage went even further in its April filing, analyst Walden said, by making "significant changes" to the approved Citizens language "resulting in more restrictions in areas such as Duties After loss."

"While you do not have to submit the exact language approved for Citizens, the proposed language should not result in greater restrictions," Walden said.

Joe Ligman, a Miami plaintiff's attorney, said, "I am sure that Heritage thoroughly researched the legal consequences of their AOB restrictions and hoped to catch the [state] off guard."

By Ron Hurtibise
Sun Sentinel
rhurtibise@sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4071
Copyright © 2016, Sun Sentinel

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