New Florida Law Deems Ridesharing Drivers As Independent Contractors & Provides Minimum Insurance Requirements

You may or may not be aware that there is a new Florida law deeming Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing drivers as independent contractors and NOT employees that is going to be taking effect on July 1st. The new Florida law also provides for insurance coverage requirements that will now be mandatory for such drivers and companies. We want to make sure you know how this legislation is going to affect your business.

On May 9, 2017, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Transportation Network Companies Act (HB 221), designating drivers for ridesharing companies in the on-demand or gig economy as “independent contractors” as long as the “transportation network company” meets four criteria that are currently met by Uber, Lyft, and other similar companies.

Under this newly enacted legislation, insurance coverage requirements are now also being made mandatory for the drivers and the ridesharing companies when they are engaged in the online application of the ridesharing company and/or in a prearranged ride. The coverage requirements under the new law can be satisfied in one of three ways. The new law also discusses the responsibilities of the driver’s personal auto insurance carrier when an accident occurs and provides avenues for the insurer to investigate the claim with the cooperation of the ridesharing company.

We recently presented a continuing education course at the 25th Annual Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee (FIFEC) Conference called The Ridesharing Generation: Insurance Implications & Complications which discusses this topic. We are happy to provide a copy of the presentation to you if you are interested.

For questions, or to discuss this issue in greater detail, please feel free to contact Lissette Alvarez or Cecile Mendizabal.

For more information on how to schedule a complimentary continuing education course via webinar or live presentation, please contact the Marketing Department of ROIG Lawyers.

ROIG Lawyers is a minority-owned litigation firm with a primary focus on Insurance Defense Litigation. We serve as primary counsel for numerous national and regional carriers and corporations related to all aspects of insurance litigation. ROIG Lawyers does not intend to create an attorney-client relationship by offering this information, and anyone’s review of the information shall not be deemed to create such a relationship. You should consult a lawyer with regard to specific law issues that requires attention.

Comments Off on New Florida Law Deems Ridesharing Drivers As Independent Contractors & Provides Minimum Insurance Requirements

Filed under Uncategorized

Geico Claims Fraud By Plaintiff Seeking Class Action Lawsuit In Florida

As reported by Law360, in its efforts to have class certification denied, GEICO has asserted that VIP Auto Glass Inc. may lack standing to bring any claims against GEICO and maintain its lawsuit.  “Since VIP actually has no valid assignment, it has no standing to bring any claims, much less any class claims. Class certification must be denied on this ground alone,” GEICO added, also noting that it reserves the right to seek sanctions or other appropriate remedies based on the alleged improper conduct.

According to the Complaint, VIP Auto Glass Inc. is seeking damages on behalf of GEICO policyholders, alleging that GEICO’s prices violate Florida laws and “have absolutely nothing to do” with the amount most shops charge for a windshield replacement.  VIP Auto Glass has asked a federal court in Tampa to certify a class of similarly situated windshield repair facilities in the state that were hired to perform repairs by Florida GEICO policyholders, obtained an assignment of benefits and submitted bills for reimbursement, but did not receive full payment from the insurer.  However, in its response opposing that motion, GEICO has advised the court that it has recently discovered that VIP’s repeated assertions that Mr. Jones assigned it his benefits have been false.  GEICO says that Jones recently confirmed the forgery during a deposition and in a sworn affidavit, testifying that the signature and initials on the filed assignment of benefits are not his. In his affidavit, Jones also says that his first name is spelled Derryl, with two “Rs.”

GEICO has stated that the court’s analysis should end with a finding that VIP lacks standing, but also argues that class certification should be denied because class members cannot be easily ascertained since each proposed member’s assignment of benefits would have to be verified through individual factual inquiries.

Click here for full article. (Subscription Required)

Comments Off on Geico Claims Fraud By Plaintiff Seeking Class Action Lawsuit In Florida

Filed under Class Action, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Defense, Windshield

Four North Carolina Men Charged in Insurance Scam

As reported by The-Dispatch.com, four North Carolina men have been charged by the N.C. Department of Insurance with charges including insurance fraud, felony conspiracy, injury to real property and attempting to obtain property by false pretense. Phillip Brandon Edwards, Mark William Madison, Joel Jayson Smith and Brandon Richard Turner are being accused of deliberately damaging roofs in at least two homes to obtain insurance payment from United Services Automobile Association under false pretense.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, Thomasville Police Department, Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and Concord Police Department are the agencies that assisted with the investigation.

“According to the FBI, insurance fraud costs the average family between $400 and $700 per year in the form of increased premiums,” North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey said in a news release. National Insurance Crime Bureau has seen a rise in potential fraudulent roofing claims and complaints with over 150 referral complaints in 2014 and 2015.

Click here to read full article.

Comments Off on Four North Carolina Men Charged in Insurance Scam

Filed under Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud

UPDATE: Naples Man in Florida Crash Ring Sentenced to 3 Years in Jail

On May 2, 2017, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud reported that Wisler Cyrius of Naples was sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.

Cyrius and five other individuals conspired to solicit people to participate in staged motor vehicle accidents in exchange for compensation. According to the Justice Department, Cyrius was also ordered by the court to pay restitution to automobile insurance companies and to forfeit property in the amount of the proceeds traceable to the offense.

Click here to view the full article. (Previous post)

Comments Off on UPDATE: Naples Man in Florida Crash Ring Sentenced to 3 Years in Jail

Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal Retroactively Applies Allstate PIP Decision

According to Law360, on Wednesday, April 19th Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal retroactively applied a state Supreme Court decision involving Allstate Insurance Co.’s personal injury protection policy language regarding the use of the Medicare fee schedules, overriding a lower court’s ruling and handing Allstate the win. After denying the insurer’s request for review of a circuit court appellate division’s ruling in favor of medical provider Hallandale Open MRI LLC last September, the court reversed course, applying the Supreme Court’s January decision in Allstate v. Orthopedic Specialists.

Click here to read the full article (subscription required).

Comments Off on Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal Retroactively Applies Allstate PIP Decision

Filed under auto insurance, Case Law, FL Legislation, Florida, Insurance, PIP, PIP/No Fault

Geico Sues Florida Health Clinic for ‘Unnecessary’ Massage Claims

As reported by Law360, Geico sued Medical Wellness Services Inc. of Miami, FL for allegedly making $1.2 million in claims for providing medically unnecessary treatments for automobile accident victims who were eligible for coverage under their no-fault insurance policies. According to Geico, some of the claims were for services that were not actually provided and contained billing codes that misrepresented and exaggerated the services.

“The defendants do not now have — and never had — any right to be compensated for the fraudulent services that were billed to Geico through Medical Wellness,” Geico said. Geico claims Medical Wellness Services Inc. submitted claims for massage therapist services which are not reimbursable because Florida law prohibits no-fault insurance reimbursement for massages or other similar services.

According to the suit, the scheme began no later than 2013 and continues to this day. In addition to the request for $1.2 million in damages, Geico is also requesting a declaration from the court saying it will not have to pay any pending fraudulent claims by the health clinic which totals more than $75,000.

Click here for the full story (subscription required).

Comments Off on Geico Sues Florida Health Clinic for ‘Unnecessary’ Massage Claims

Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud, Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade Fraud, Personal Injury Protection, PIP/No Fault

Undercover Investigation Led to Arrests of Bradenton Area Chiropractors

According to ABC Action News, an undercover investigation led to the arrests of two Bradenton area chiropractors and other staff. Detectives say chiropractors Richard Tambe and Yusef Barnes, along with chiropractic assistant Johncina Harrell, performed a fraction of the treatments listed on insurance claims and were billing for treatment never rendered to patients.

The arrests and undercover investigation took place at the Back on Track clinic in Bradenton, Florida. According to the arrest report, all three were booked at the Manatee County Jail on insurance fraud, a third degree felony. Tambe faces 12 counts. Barnes is charged with 8 and Harrell is charged with 13 counts. If convicted each suspect faces as much as 5 years in prison.

Click here for full story.

Comments Off on Undercover Investigation Led to Arrests of Bradenton Area Chiropractors

Filed under Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Fraud, Uncategorized

Sunny South Florida, Out-of-State College Students and the question of Vehicle Insurance Coverage

Spring Break, a time where college students from all over the Country flock down to Florida, known by many as the “Spring Break Capital of the World”, looking to have some fun in the sun.

Florida has many Universities, Colleges and other institutions of higher learning that welcome students from other States to attend.

So the question is, does an out-of-state student who attends University or College in Florida for 2 or 4 years now become a resident of Florida because they have decided to live in Florida during this time? Is that out-of-state student now required to register and license their out-of-state vehicle in Florida and obtain the minimum Florida automobile insurance coverage on that vehicle which is $10,000.00 in Personal Injury Protection and $10,000.00 in Property Damage Liability?

Well yes and no.

If the out-of-state student is planning to domicile themselves in Florida then they are required to license their vehicle in Florida and obtain the minimum insurance in order to operate that vehicle on the roads and highways of the State.

However, if the student maintains their residence in another State while they are enrolled as a full-time student in an “institution of higher learning”, then they are exempt from licensing their vehicle and obtaining the minimum insurance on that vehicle during the duration of their enrollment, as long as they have complied with the licensing and insurance requirements of the State for which they are a resident. One less thing for parents to worry about when they watch their babies leave the nest for the first time.

However, what constitutes an “institution of higher learning”.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary® defines this term as “a college or university”. But what about a trade school, vocational school or cosmetology school? The Federal Government generally defines an ”institution of higher education” as a public or nonprofit educational institution who only admits students who have a high school diploma or have a recognized equivalent certificate such as a General Educational Diploma (GED); is accredited or has pre-accreditation status; awards a Bachelor’s Degree or a 2-years Associates Degree; or, any school that provides not less than a 1-year training program beyond High School, to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.[1]

These are inquiries that an insurance company must properly investigate in an automobile accident claim involving a nonresident student in order to determine whether they would be exempt from maintaining the minimum Florida insurance on their vehicle while in Florida or if the insurer may be required to extend that student the minimum insurance under Florida law.

So would your insured qualify for the exemption as a nonresident student?

This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship by offering this information, and anyone’s review of the information shall not be deemed to create such a relationship. The content provided is intended to provide information of general interest to the public and is not intended to offer legal advice about specific situations or problems. You should consult a lawyer with regard to specific law issues that requires attention.

For additional information, please contact Stephen Mellor of Roig Lawyers at 954-354-1541 or by email at smellor@roiglawyers.com. Stephen G. Mellor is a partner in the Deerfield Beach office of Roig Lawyers who primarily focuses on out-of-state policy claims for insurance carriers. 

[1] 20 U.S. Code § 1001

Comments Off on Sunny South Florida, Out-of-State College Students and the question of Vehicle Insurance Coverage

Filed under auto insurance, Claims Handling, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Personal Injury Protection, PIP, PIP/No Fault

UPDATE: Sixth Person Found Guilty in Unlicensed Chiropractic Clinics Scam

A Naples man convicted of committing mail fraud back in September of 2016 has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. According to the Naples Daily News, Nesly Loute, was also ordered to pay restitution of almost $2.15 million to the insurance companies.

Loute and five others plead guilty and were convicted of operating five unlicensed chiropractic clinics and fraudulently billing auto insurers for Personal Injury Protection benefits.

Click here to view the full article. (Previous post)

Comments Off on UPDATE: Sixth Person Found Guilty in Unlicensed Chiropractic Clinics Scam

Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance Fraud, Personal Injury Protection, PIP, PIP/No Fault, Unlicensed Clinics

Trooper Fired and Arrested for Helping Friend Cover Up Crash

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper David Casillas was arrested on Tuesday, February 28th and charged with organized fraud, filing a false insurance claim and official misconduct after trying to help a friend cover up a traffic crash that occurred in June of 2015. FHP fired Casillas in January as a result of the investigation which lasted over a year.

During the investigation, it was discovered that Casillas had written a false report for a bogus insurance claim submitted by his friend, dentist Jesus Del Valle. The insurance claim was submitted as a result of damage the dentist had done to his vehicle when he sideswiped a landscaping crew and kept driving.

Del Valle’s crash left Yoel Montero, a gardener with Lewis Tree Service, with a traumatic head injury and severe injuries to his right leg. The false insurance claim alleges that the accident happened a week later than it actually happened and that he had crashed the SUV into a palm tree instead of a landscaping crew.

The key to breaking the case was the fact that Del Valle’s 2015 Land Rover needed a new passenger-side mirror which could only be ordered from Range Rover manufacturers. Only one such had been sold in that time period and it was to Del Valle’s mechanic (and friend) Ariel Perera who performed the repair on his vehicle. Perera also allegedly submitted inflated invoices to Del Valle’s insurance company as well as charged the company for replacement parts that were never actually replaced. He is also facing charges with Del Valle and Casilla.

Click here to read the full story.

Comments Off on Trooper Fired and Arrested for Helping Friend Cover Up Crash

Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud, Miami-Dade County