By Matthew Power. The Florida HBA estimates that $10,000 of the price of a $100,000 home goes to workers' compensation premiums. It's an onerous burden that has grown larger as legal claims have increased.
But those were the good old days. Starting this summer, Hartford Financial Services Group says it will no longer underwrite Florida workers' compensation policies. Period. That has dealt a crushing blow to builders in the state, who are required by law to carry the insurance. For those who can still get it, workers' comp rates are already three times higher than before the announcement. And many simply won't be able to get new insurance.
"What's happening is that builders are closing down from one end of the state to the other," notes Edie Ousley, public affairs director for the Florida HBA. "About 5,000 of our 16,000 members are in immediate jeopardy."
A well-organized effort to control premiums, backed by many high-profile politicians has stalled, Ousley says, despite lawmaker acknowledgement that the building industry has helped keep the state out of the economic doldrums.
"The proposed bill will provide a 15 percent rate decrease in premiums," she says.
Which begs the question: Why will insurers do business in Florida if they can make more money elsewhere? "We have to lure them back by limiting how vulnerable they are to lawsuits," Ousley says. "And by raising the standard for injured workers to prove the legitimacy of their injuries. There's a lot of fraud going on."