Whatever makes your windshield a hazard needs your attention. Many jurisdictions regard a broken window as a hazard that will earn you a summons for driving an unsafe vehicle. Glass damage does not repair itself, so the sooner you work with your insurer or an ethical auto glass contractor, the better.

Your insurer will help you arrange a convenient appointment for a low-cost repair. The insurer will tell you about your share of the cost. Perhaps it’s nothing. This may be the best option because both you and the insurer have the same goal — a safe windshield at the right cost. Most insurers have a list of preferred ethical auto glass contractors.

An ethical auto glass contractor will cooperate with you and your insurer on appointments and cost. Regardless of whether you work with the insurer or with a recommended ethical contractor, your windshield will be restored at a modest cost and no trouble.

On the other hand, a few people cannot resist borrowing trouble. They fall for contractors who offer an “incentive” (cash or gift cards) for allowing them to repair the windshield and “handle all the insurance paperwork.” That paperwork usually includes an “assignment of benefits” (AOB), where the customer signs over their rights to allow a contractor to act on their benefit.

The AOB gives the contractor the right to charge the insurer whatever it wants for repairing the windshield. When your insurer objects to an outrageous fee for the repair, the contractor and his attorney can threaten to sue for the repair plus for attorney fees. A windshield repair may cost $200, but attorney fees can run $500 per hour, so the insurer will often find it cheaper to settle than to litigate while billable hours run amok.

The insured motorist probably will not feel the scam until the next year when he is looking at insurance rates that have skyrocketed because of the outsized AOB “claim” for the windshield. Of course, higher insurance rates will have spread across the insurance marketplace, dragging innocent consumers into the cost effects of the bogus repair scam.

In Florida’s short legislative session this year, a pro-consumer bill, SB 312, would ban broken glass “incentives” and reduce the incidence of runaway litigation costs through a pre-lawsuit process between repair shops and insurance companies.

While most consumers can take care of themselves when there’s a simple windshield break, some fall for an AOB scam, and that makes SB 321 a worthwhile protection for us all.