JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Your homeowners insurance rate could skyrocket if two bills moving quickly through Florida's legislature become law, according to attorneys and insurance agents.
Attorneys say it would be an unintended consequence of changing laws that would make it easier to sue and be sued for what you say in print, on social media and in public meetings. The same insurance that covers you if someone slips and falls in your driveway or if your dog bites someone on your property also covers you for defamation, libel and slander claims. It's called personal injury insurance.
"We call it the Facebook coverage," said Jacksonville Insurance Agent Matthew Carlucci, Jr. "Because we're like, 'Go on Facebook, go on a rant, be careful. You might be committing libel.'"
Carlucci says he could "easily see" 20 to 30 percent rate increases if House Bill 991 and Senate Bill 1220 become law.
"If lawsuits start flooding in for this sort of thing, insurance companies are gonna start charging a lot more for that coverage," Carlucci said.
He says it's also possible insurance companies may stop offering that coverage. First Amendment Attorney Rachel Fugate agrees and says getting sued for defamation isn't cheap.
"It can easily get into the millions of dollars to defend one of these cases," Fugate said.
Governor Ron DeSantis supports the measures, which he says are intended to stop journalists from defaming people.
"I do think it may cause some people to not want to put out things that are false, that are smearing somebody's reputation," he said when First Coast News asked him about the bills during a news conference last week.
Fugate says the result of the laws would have unintended consequences including impacting the price of homeowners insurance.
"It's not going to impact truly the intended target of it," she said.
As companies close and leave the state, getting homeowners insurance is getting more difficult. Already 1.2 million people use the state-run Citizens insurance which was intended to be a last-resort option.