Allstate is being sued by Florida policyholders who claim the company is unfairly charging higher rates to drivers who've had accidents, bad driving records or credit problems, even after the problems are resolved.

The Florida Attorney General has also been investigating the company but has not yet taken any action. In 1997, the state of Alaska found that Allstate overcharged some of its policyholders because of past problems on their record.

The Pinellas County Circuit Court suit challenge Allstate's corporate structure in Florida. The company maintains two separate corporate entities -- Allstate Insurance Co., which issues policies to drivers with good driving records and good credit ratings; and Allstate Indemnity Co., which insures drivers with problems and charges higher rates.

The suit says that when a policy comes up for renewal, Allstate Insurance Co. automatically examines a motorist's record. If it finds any problems, it shifts the policy to the higher-price Allstate Indemnity Co.

But when a policy comes up for renewal at Allstate Indemnity Co., there is no automatic check to see if the motorist's record has been clear for the last year and, thus, no automatic procedure to award lower rates to those drivers.

Florida law provides that insurance companies cannot charge surcharges for accidents and moving violations for more than three years. The suit argues that assigning customers to Allstate Indemnity and leaving them there indefinitely amounts to an illegal surcharge.

The suit was filed by James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich of Tampa.

Policyholders eligible for the potential class action would include any Florida policyholder who has been with Allstate Indemnity since 1984, those who were transferred into Allstate Indemnity from Allstate Insurance and Allstate policyholders who have been improperly surcharged for accidents or moving violations.