Author Archives: Stephen Mellor

Pending PIP Litigation on the East and West Coasts Could Impact States In Between

PropertyCasualty360 published a report about pending automobile personal-injury litigation in California and New York that could have a lasting impact if the decisions spread to other jurisdictions. Courts will determine allowable evidence for suits involving these insurance claims.

East Coast

In New York, insurers investigated radiologist Andrew Carothers, a suspected illegal straw owner after he filed 20,000 lawsuits against auto-insurance carriers. After insurers refused to pay Carothers, he flooded the state’s courts with more than 20,000 lawsuits seeking collection for unpaid “services.” The civil cases were consolidated, and the jury agreed Carothers was fraudulently engaged in the corporate practice of medicine. The Appellate Division affirmed, so Carothers went to the New York Court of Appeals, where the case awaits a decision.

A favorable decision can deter scams like Carothers’ in other states that forbid the corporate practice of medicine. Fraudsters who often quickly expand operations to line their pockets in other states could be deterred. A decision is expected in 2019.

West Coast

Dave Pebley was involved in a serious vehicle accident, sought medical care and filed suit. He had health coverage but decided not to submit his bills for payment. That is because, under California law, the jury would only hear about the amount paid by his health insurer as the measure of his medical expense while Pebley was billed at the top rate for medical services by refusing to use his health insurance.

The insurer cried foul, asserting that such actions mislead the jury, and are fraudulent because medical providers never expect to receive such high payments. They argued the plaintiff may present the higher medical bills but must provide expert testimony to prove the charges are fair and reasonable. Similarly, the defendant or their insurer may present counter-evidence as to what the health providers normally accept for payment of those services.

The California Second District Court of Appeal reasoned that juries should be allowed to ultimately decide the appropriate charge for the medical services. Parties are lining up to support an appeal of the case to the state Supreme Court. If Pebley succeeds in California, potentially winning the $3.6 million he seeks, the strategy of refusing to use health insurance can be expected to spread rapidly to other states.

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Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Fraud, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud, PIP, PIP/No Fault, Uncategorized

Appeal Court Backed Air Ambulance Firm in PIP Dispute

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed air-ambulance firm Air Methods Corp. in a dispute stemming from a traffic accident that resulted in the death of accident victim Lemar Bailey about whether the amount paid for helicopter services should be limited by Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law. The federal appeals court ruled that the air-ambulance firm is considered an air carrier under federal law and should be able to bill the child’s father, Lenworth Bailey, for costs that exceeded the limits in the state’s no-fault system.

Following the March 2013 accident, Air Methods Corp. billed $27,975 for its services. Bailey’s auto insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., paid $6,911 under the fee schedule. His health insurer, Aetna Life Insurance Co. paid another $3,681. However, Bailey did not pay the remaining balance of nearly $17,400. He filed a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that the air ambulance company was trying to improperly collect amounts in excess of the fee schedule. However, the judge ruled in favor of the Air Method, which led Bailey to the appeals court that also rejected such arguments.

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

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit of Injured NJ Driver Who Maintained FL Insurance Policy

A New Jersey judge has ruled that Jeffrey Scholes, a man living in New Jersey but driving a car registered and insured in Florida, may not sue another New Jersey driver for injuries he sustained in a car accident. Judge Patrick Bartels of Essex County Superior Court dismissed Scholes’ personal injury lawsuit against defendant Stephen Hausmann on Oct. 24 citing that it would be a violation of the state’s automobile insurance statutes as Scholes fraudulently maintained a Florida automobile insurance policy while living in New Jersey.

Bartels noted that Scholes had been living and working in New Jersey since 2009 but maintained a Florida insurance policy issued by GEICO, registered his car there and had a Florida driver’s license because it was more cost-effective.

According to the ruling, Scholes was “severely injured” when he was struck head-on by Haumann’s car on Oct. 23, 2014, in South Orange. Although Scholes sustained back injuries that required epidural injections and surgery, Hausmann moved to have Scholes’ lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that New Jersey law requires that people who live in the state and who have a car here must maintain New Jersey car insurance.

Bartels agreed. “[W]e agree that plaintiff’s automobile is not considered insured pursuant to New Jersey law,” he said.

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Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud, New Jersey, PIP

Relocation For Military Personnel Might Be An Order, But What About Vehicle Registration and Insurance?

During holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, our nation pays tribute to all of our men and women, both past and present, serving in the Armed Forces. We look forward to celebrating with family and friends as we honor our military personnel and their service to this Country.

One of the things military personnel are likely to endure is moving their homes and bouncing around the Country or overseas to do their duty. These individuals often own motor vehicles and drive them across state lines to where they are newly stationed. Others are overseas for months, if not years, and have motor vehicles back at home that are not being used and are often garaged until their owners return.

So is a member of the military who is a Florida resident responsible for maintaining the registration and minimal automobile insurance on their vehicle when they are stationed out of the Country?

The answer to that is no, but be careful. Florida law makes an owner or registrant of a motor vehicle exempt from such registration and insurance requirements if a member of the United State Armed Forces is called to or on active duty outside the United States in an emergency situation. The exemption applies only as long as the member of the Armed Forces is on active duty outside the United States and applies only while the vehicle covered by the security required under Florida law is not operated by any person. However, the military insured must make a written request for this exemption and the insurer shall cancel the coverages and return any unearned premium or suspend the security required.

What does this mean? Well, the subject motor vehicle cannot be driven on the roads and highways of Florida during the time this exemption is in place. As such, if that military insured has leave and comes back to Florida, then they cannot operate that vehicle unless they renew the minimum insurance and their registration, if expired. Additionally, other individuals cannot drive that vehicle when that military insured is deployed. This can get tricky due to the fact that the worst thing that can happen to a motor vehicle is letting it sit idle for a long period of time. This can cause condensation in the fuel, carburetor issues, flat tires and other mechanical problems.

To be safe, advise everyone you know that may have access to the vehicle that it cannot be operated on the streets or highways of Florida until it is re-registered and insured. Putting a lock on the vehicle’s steering wheel or a note in the window as a reminder may also be a good practice. This does not mean you cannot start the vehicle and let it idle, it just means you cannot take it out for a drive. If you do, the driver/owner of the vehicle would become self-insured and could possibly be cited for failure to have the required insurance on the vehicle. Sorry neighbors, no favors to borrow the car for a quick trip to the market… That run for milk can leave the vehicle owner in a stale situation.

Now Florida residents are generally required every year to renew the registration on their vehicles.

However, is a member of the Armed Forces, who is a resident of another State and is ordered to be stationed in Florida, required to register their personal vehicle in Florida and maintain the minimum Florida insurance on that vehicle if they want to drive that vehicle on the roads and highways of Florida?

The answer is no. Any motor vehicle or mobile home owned by, and operated exclusively for the personal use of, any member of the United States Armed Forces who is not a resident of Florida and who is stationed in Florida while in compliance with military or naval orders, are exempt from registering and insuring their personal vehicle in Florida during that time as long as it is registered and insured in accordance with the laws of their home State.

Now the military insured may want to renew their registration and obtain the minimum Florida insurance if they know that they will be stationed in Florida for a long period of time. However, they are not required to do so as long as they have military orders keeping them stationed in Florida. Consequently, this means that the military insured will only get the benefit of the coverage’s that are available under their insurance policy and would not qualify for additional Florida Personal Injury Protection coverage benefits if they are in a motor vehicle accident in the State.

There are certain insurers that cater to the Armed Forces personnel. However, there are other insurance options for these individuals based on the competition between insurers. Thus, insurance agents and adjusters should become knowledgeable about the insurance exemptions provided to the Armed Forces personnel so to better service these special clients.

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 legal issues that require 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. 

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Filed under auto insurance, FL Legislation, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense

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

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

Will You Have Coverage When You Cross The Line?

Is an automobile insurance company required to extend Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits to an insured who resides in another state?

Well yes and no.

An automobile insurer who sells automobile insurance policies in Florida and the nonresident insured’s state is required to extend the minimum Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits of $10,000.00 to the insured if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident in Florida, but only if they qualify under Florida law.

To qualify, the nonresident insured’s vehicle must have been physically located in Florida for 90 nonconsecutive days out of the previous 365 days from the date of the accident. By nonconsecutive days, it means that the insured vehicle could leave Florida and re-enter and still qualify for Florida PIP benefits if the vehicle has been in Florida for longer than 90 days throughout that preceding year.

An insurer is not required to extend the $10,000.00 in Florida PIP benefits to a nonresident insured whose vehicle is not in Florida for longer than 90 nonconsecutive days out of the previous 365 days from the date of the accident.

Most if not all automobile insurance policies have an “Out-of-State Coverage” provision which will detail that insurer’s obligation to comply with a State’s minimum insurance requirements if their nonresident insured becomes subject to the insurance laws of that State. However, some insurance contracts make it the responsibility of the nonresident insured and not the insurer to purchase the required minimum Florida PIP coverage if they plan to stay in Florida for longer than 90-days.

An insurer is not required to extend additional Florida PIP benefits to a nonresident insured that enters Florida and whose insurance policy meets the States minimum PIP or No-Fault requirements.

For Example:

The New York Automobile No-Fault Law requires each insured to carry a minimum of $50,000.00 in No-Fault/ PIP benefits. Thus, if a New York resident drives their vehicle into Florida and is involved in a motor vehicle accident, then they will receive the $50,000.00 in New York PIP benefits as this is greater coverage than the minimum $10,000.00 in PIP benefits which is required under Florida law.

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.

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Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Personal Injury Protection, PIP/No Fault