A bill that could soon pass out of the Florida legislature aims to curb the number of lawsuits filed against auto insurance companies for windshield repairs. The bill would prohibit policyholders from transferring their coverage benefits to auto glass shops, a practice that allows the shops to petition insurance companies directly for payment for their services, including by filing suit.
Proponents of the bill say these lawsuits, which have increased 20-fold in the past decade, have contributed to Florida having the highest auto insurance premiums in the country.
Number of motor vehicle glass lawsuits
An analysis of the bill by legislative staffers noted that a single auto glass company filed more than 15,300 lawsuits against insurers in Florida between Jan. 1, 2016 and Feb. 7, 2019. 
“That’s a big number,” says Paul Schriefer, a professor of risk management & insurance at Florida State University. “That’s 413 lawsuits per month.”
“When you look at numbers like that,” he adds, “as a consumer, I’m thinking you’re not a glass company. You’re a law firm masquerading as a glass company.”
Why did windshield repair lawsuits become a problem?
The frequency of lawsuits is possible because of a legal agreement called assignment of benefits, Schriefer says. When a policyholder signs over assignment of benefits to an auto glass shop, it gives it access to their right as a policyholder to make a claim against the insurance company.
“If assignment of benefits goes away, I guarantee you you’re not going to see these jaw dropping litigation numbers like this,” he says.
Another reason these lawsuits are so profitable is because of Florida’s “one-way attorney fee provision.” Under this provision, the insured or whoever gets assigned their benefits — in this case the auto glass companies — can recover attorney fees from the insurance company if they win their lawsuit, but if the insurance company wins, they’ll have to front these costs themselves.
If you’re a policyholder, this may not seem like a good deal. You go into an auto glass shop, sign some paperwork, and get your windshield fixed for free while the shop works things out with your insurance. But insurance companies make up for their courtroom losses with higher premiums.
Schriefer expects consumers will eventually benefit from lower, or at least slower-rising premiums if the bill becomes law.
“I know there’s a natural tendency of assuming if the insurance company wants this it must be bad for the consumer,” he says. “And that’s not the case in this instance.”
Runaway lawsuits have also plagued home insurance companies in Florida. In that case, the assignment of benefits went to roofing contractors who went on to sue home insurance companies.
Florida legislators recently passed reforms to curb lawsuits against home insurance companies. 
How to save on auto insurance
If you don’t want to wait around for Florida politicians, there are ways to lower your auto insurance premiums on your own.
One way is by raising your deductible. A higher deductible means you’ll pay more of the cost of damage to your car out of pocket, but you’ll usually pay a lower premium.
If you go this route, make sure you have enough money on hand to afford the deductible in the event of a crash. The Florida legislation allows insurance companies to offer an optional deductible of $250 specifically for auto glass repairs.
Another option is to bundle your home and auto insurance with the same company, which usually leads to a discount.
You should also regularly shop around for cheaper auto insurance, Schriefer says. Rates can vary based on your driving record, so it can pay off to see if you’re paying the best price.
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