What you need to know about door-to-door windshield companies

VIDEO: What you need to know about door-to-door windshield companies

Action 9 investigates companies that offer to replace your “dinged” auto windshield for “free.”

Anthony Nunnelly says a door-to-door glass company salesperson found his SUV windshield had a ding. According to Nunnelly, the man from Apex Auto Glass offered a free replacement because his auto insurance would pay.

“And I wouldn’t have to do anything but just sign this paper he had,” Nunnelly said.

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He signed the paperwork and Apex Auto Glass replaced the windshield, but he said the company did not replace tinting as promised. Then he tried getting a hold of a manager but couldn’t get a response.

“And that’s after calling 3 times and after that I just gave up,” Nunnelly said.

Instead, he complained to his insurance provider.

Nunnelly says his insurer company told him that he had signed an Assignment of Benefits or AOB, a contract that allowed Apex to take over his claim and run up the repair bill.

“They said if I went directly through them, I would only pay $400 to $500 to replace,” Nunnelly said.

Nunnelly claims he was told, his policy paid out nearly 3 times that amount.

Critics say AOB abuse drives up costs with contractors inflating prices then suing to get paid. And insurance companies must pay the legal fees.

It’s abuse that’s out of control according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The organization claims Florida had 400 AOB windshield lawsuits in 2006 and that soared to 35,000 cases in 2019.

Insurance expert Tom Cotton says that’s fueling premium increases every year.

“The insurance company is paying more. It’s an evil triangle,” Cotton said.

He says the law requires insurance companies to pick up the legal bills.

“They have an attorney who files a lawsuit, even if they get what’s reasonable and customary, the attorney still collects his fees,” Cotton said.

Action 9 checked courthouse records. Apex Auto Glass filed more than 900 lawsuits in Central Florida in a year. The lawsuits were claiming windshield charges up to $2,500, not including legal fees.

Todd Ulrich contacted Apex Auto Glass. A manager said it didn’t sue Nunnelly’s insurer, and the company only charged a standard reasonable fee. But he would not say how much.

“We will all pay for it when our rates go up,” Nunnelly said.

Two years ago, the Florida legislature banned AOB abuse involving homeowner insurance.

Two attempts to curb runaway windshield claims failed, but critics will try again next year.