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Florida auto insurance panel declines rule on surcharges

A Florida panel that oversees rules for auto insurance regulations declined last week to block insurance companies from seeking surcharges on new customers for accidents they didn't cause.

The rule, proposed by state insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty, would have banned insurance companies from raising premiums for new customers involved in accidents where they were not at fault.

Governor Charlie Crist, who sits on the panel with three cabinet members, made a motion to approve the rule, but it was not seconded by the other members, according to the Miami Herald.

Insurance industry representatives said surcharges for new customers with accidents on their records are common practice and are justified because such drivers pose a higher risk even if they are not at fault.

State law already prohibits insurers from raising premiums for current customers who have been in accidents they didn't cause, but McCarty proposed the rule because the law refers to "the insured" without making a distinction between new and current customers, the Herald reported.

Although the insurance regulation panel did not act on the proposal, McCarty said he has rejected a proposal by one insurance company to include such a surcharge for new customers, which could end up in an appellate court, according to the newspaper.

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