Category Archives: Insurance Claims

Overreaching Assignments & Their Impact on Your Claims Handling

Recently, there has been an uptick in changes to the language in the assignment of benefit contracts which emergency mitigation companies are having Insureds sign.

One of the changes in the contracts is that the Insured’s execution of the assignment of benefits authorizes the carrier to not only directly pay them for their services, but to also include them on all checks regardless of the coverage they are for. For example, if the carrier pays the insured under Coverage A for repair, Coverage C for contents, or Coverage D for additional living expenses, this contractual language may require that the AOB company be listed on these checks.

A second change in the contracts is that the assignment of benefits may have a single sentence seeking to exceed any emergency services cap the carrier’s policy may have. Once the carrier receives this contract, the clock begins ticking on the time frame for the carrier to respond. If the carrier fails to respond within the timeframe detailed in the policy, this cap is waived.

With an influx of insurance claims due to recent natural disasters, being aware of these changes is key to how you handle these claims. Hopefully, this overreaching on behalf of the AOB companies will be the final push needed to have some laws passed to regulate this AOB realm.

If you have any questions on this issue, please feel free to contact our First Party Property Team at info@roiglawyers.com.

ROIG Lawyers attorneys have provided presentations on Assignment of Benefits as well as other areas that are beneficial to our clients in the Property Insurance industry. 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.

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Filed under AOB, Assignment of Benefits, Claims Handling, FL Legislation, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Property Insurance

Florida Man Arrested for False Insurance Claim

Insurance Journal has reported that a Florida man, Claude Milhomme, was arrested for attempting to file a false insurance claim for his vehicle. According to the Department of Financial Services’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST), Milhomme filed a claim in September stating water damage to his vehicle caused by Hurricane Irma in the amount of $225 for a diagnosis, after hours fee and storage fee.

DFAST received a suspected fraud tip about one month later. After an inspection by state investigators, it was revealed that Milhomme’s vehicle was mechanically inoperable prior to Hurricane Irma’s landfall in September of 2017.

Click here to view the full story.

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Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Fraud

UPDATE – Pilot Theodore R. Wright III Pleads Guilty to Insurance Fraud

UPDATE – Pilot Theodore R. Wright III Pleads Guilty to Insurance Fraud

According to KLTV 7 of Texas, Theodore R. Wright III, the well-known pilot who survived a 2012 Gulf of Mexico crash and used an iPad to record his time in the water, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit arson. Wright and three others also pleaded guilty to buying, over-insuring and ultimately destroying planes, boats, and cars to collect cash.

In May 2017, the Wright and his co-conspirators, Shane Gordon, Raymond Fosdick, and Edward Delima were charged with using fire to commit a felony and aiding and abetting, arson of property used in interstate or foreign commerce or used in an activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.

Click here to view the full story.

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

Attorney Fee Multipliers in PIP and the Search for a Guiding Lodestar

In October 2017, the Supreme Court again addressed the issue of contingency fee multipliers to awards of attorneys’ fees. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Plaintiff attorneys felt a tinge of delight and perhaps delayed buying their lottery tickets in hopes that this new decision will help them win an attorney fee multiplier if they prevail in a PIP suit. While HB 119 in 2012 eliminated multipliers from newer PIP lawsuits, there are still many older cases that are now being resolved which face the possibility of large awards of attorney fees going to Plaintiff attorneys. Additionally, there is no penalty for a Plaintiff attorney to attempt to pursue a multiplier, thus the key question is how to best defend against this potential windfall.

To understand the new decision in Joyce v. Federated Nat’l Ins. Co., 2017 Fla. LEXIS 2070 (Fla. 2017), it is beneficial to look back at the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation of how and when to award a multiplier. The seminal decision regarding the applicability of multipliers is still the Quanstrom decision from 1990. Specifically, the requirements under Quanstrom necessary to find a fee multiplier are:

  1. Whether the relevant market requires a contingency fee multiplier to obtain competent counsel.
  2. Whether the attorney was able to mitigate the risk of non-payment in any way.
  3. Whether any of the factors set forth in Rowe are applicable, especially, the amount involved, the results obtained, and the type of fee arrangement between the attorney and his client. Id. at 834.

Joyce re-iterates that a market inquiry as to whether a multiplier was necessary to obtain competent counsel is the primary factor under the Quanstrom[1] requirements. This is important to PIP litigation since there are few, if any, potential PIP lawsuits that cannot find a warm and welcoming PIP attorney eager and willing to take the case.

Interestingly, the Florida Supreme Court in Joyce noted that the United States Supreme Court in 1992 revisited the issue of contingency fee multipliers in Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557 (1992), concluding that “enhancements for contingency [was] not permitted under the fee-shifting statutes at issue…[and] Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, reasoned that enhancement for contingency would likely duplicate in substantial part factors already subsumed in the lodestar.” Joyce. at 17, citing Dague at 567.

Under Joyce, the Florida Supreme Court separated itself from this federal precedent and continued to allow the use of multipliers under Florida law. The fear was that without the possibility of contingency multipliers some individuals with meritorious claims would fail to obtain competent counsel and the Florida Supreme Court noted “their usefulness in helping parties secure legal representation and their importance in ensuring access to Courts.” Id. at 17-18 citing Bell v. U.S.B. Acquisition Co., Inc., 734 So.2d 403, 411 (Fla. 1999). In other words, the Florida Supreme Court was concerned that Justice Scalia failed to consider that without a potential multiplier there is a danger of never obtaining competent counsel. Id. at 25. But with the thousands of PIP lawsuits being filed every year, can a Plaintiff truly make an argument that finding a PIP attorney is difficult?

Under Joyce, it appears that contingency fee multipliers are alive and well under Florida Law, and there are some circumstances where they are certainly warranted. Paradoxically, the best argument against the applicability of multipliers to the majority of PIP lawsuits comes from the Joyce opinion itself. The majority opinion which intentionally diverged from federal precedent on multipliers in order to preserve access to courts appears to have absolutely no concern about whether prohibiting multipliers in PIP lawsuits somehow prevents individuals from obtaining fair access to courts or diminishes one’s ability to obtain competent counsel. The dissent also argues that PIP litigation suffered no decrease in volume after HB 119 and that there was no negative impact on an insured’s ability to obtain counsel in PIP cases. Id. at 40-41. The dissent even cites the Plaintiff’s own expert testimony that there is no lack of attorneys willing and able to take PIP cases and “that same fee expert begrudgingly ‘hate[d]’ to admit that plaintiffs’ attorneys throughout the entire State of Florida are abundantly motivated to take PIP cases (even though PIP cases contain no possibility of a multiplier).” Id. at 42.

The majority opinion in Joyce actually agreed with the dissent that PIP litigation is different because of the number of attorneys willing to take PIP lawsuits. The majority opinion notes that PIP should not be compared to other types of first-party litigation since, “the fact that there are attorneys who specialize in PIP claims, which can be handled with relative ease in a volume practice, does not correlate with the availability of competent attorneys who are willing to litigate other types of insurance coverage cases, where generally more complex issues are raised.” Id. at 25. Clearly, the majority opinion is willing to differentiate PIP lawsuits from other types of first-party litigation due to the ease of obtaining a competent attorney.

Ultimately, none of the Quanstrom factors changed with the recent Joyce decision. However, the new opinion does provide an excellent analysis and justification as to how multipliers developed under Florida law and why the Supreme Court continues to think multipliers are necessary to ensure fair and equal access to the courts. It is important to keep in mind that Joyce does not mean a PIP lawsuit can never justify a multiplier. In fact, the Quanstrom decision is a PIP lawsuit[2]. Understanding the best way to contest aggressive attempts to collect fee multipliers and create an appropriate record at the trial court level remains important in PIP litigation.

[1] Standard Guaranty Insurance Co. v. Quanstrom,555 So.2d 828 (Fla. 1990)
[2] Other notable PIP lawsuits have been awarded multipliers after there was substantial and competent evidence to justify that a multiplier was necessary.  See  State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Palma, 555 So.2d 836 (Fla. 1990)

If you have any questions on this issue, please feel free to contact our Insurance Services Team at info@roiglawyers.com.

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 from seven offices throughout the state of Florida. 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. E-mail list/s from ROIG Lawyers are intended to provide information of general interest to the public and are 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.

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

Panama City Woman Sinks SUV for Insurance Money

According to the Panama City News Herald, 65-year-old Debra Jenkins has been arrested and charged with insurance fraud after having her SUV driven into a lagoon and pretending that the vehicle was stolen. The police had reportedly found a stick inside the vehicle on the driver’s floorboard which appeared to be purposely placed there to hold the gas pedal after the car was removed from the water. Video evidence from Jenkins’ neighbor also showed her SUV leaving her home together with another SUV, then only the second SUV returning that night with two people inside.

Jenkins later admitted to deputies that she and a friend had devised the plan to get rid of the vehicle and claim insurance money.

Click here for full article.

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

Florida Man Caught Staging Crash on Dashcam

According to the Sun Sentinel, a Florida man was arrested on Friday, October 6th in connection with an alleged staged crash that occurred in December of 2016. 65-year-old Mauril Aldophe of Delray Beach plotted to force a tow truck to rear-end him. Unfortunately for Mr. Aldophe, the tow truck was equipped with a dashcam capturing footage of him abruptly stopping for no apparent reason and then driving forward for several feet, throwing his car into reverse, and then slamming back into the tow truck.

According to investigators, Mr. Aldophe went to a medical clinic three days after the incident and filed a personal injury claim stating a truck had rear-ended him while he was stopped at a red light.

Mr. Aldophe now faces charges for insurance fraud and participation in an intentional crash.

Click here for full article.

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

Helping You Navigate the Choppy Waters of Hurricane Claims

Our thoughts continue to be with all those affected by Hurricane Irma. We recognize many of you will face challenges in the days and weeks ahead. In staying true to our values of loyalty and teamwork, we want to let you know that ROIG Lawyers is here to help.

With the upcoming influx of property and insurance claims to be filed, top-of-mind awareness among claim handling professionals is key in identifying fraudulent and inflated hurricane claims.

We have a close-knit group of statewide First Party Property attorneys dedicated to providing quality and proactive legal services to our clients in the area of property defense. We utilize a proactive approach in which we litigate to property claims and moreover, if the need arises, we have experienced trial attorneys on our team ready to take files through trial.

We are also available to provide complimentary in-house CE courses to our clients and colleagues as a value-added service. We do this to ensure that our clients and prospective clients are making informed decisions based on the most up to date and relevant information. These are a few of the courses that may be of most interest to you and your team.

  • Public Adjusters and SIU, 2 credit hours
    This course will inform and update insurance adjusters on the role of a public adjuster when investigating a homeowner’s claim. The course will educate adjusters on the statutory authority for public adjusters as well as ethical requirements. Adjusters will be educated on common tactics and provided with examples of ways adjusters can assist with a fraudulent claim. Finally, adjusters will be educated on the potential pitfalls associated with alleging insurance fraud.
  • Water Mitigation Claims, 1 or 2 credit hours
    This course will provide a basic overview of the various requirements of water mitigation services pursuant to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (“IICRC”). Specifically, the course addresses the types of machines used, the categories and classes of losses, and various SIU issues to be aware of when adjusting these types of losses.
  • Examinations Under Oath and the Law, 2 credit hours
    This course will inform insurance adjusters about examinations under oath and how and why they are used in practice. Additionally, the course indicates the information insurance adjusters should gather in anticipation of an Examination Under Oath.

If you have any questions, concerns, or to schedule a complimentary CE course, please contact the Marketing Department of ROIG Lawyers at marketing@roiglawyers.com.

ROIG Lawyers will continue to stand with you and as always, we thank you for standing by us.

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 from seven offices throughout the state of Florida. 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. E-mail list/s from ROIG Lawyers are intended to provide information of general interest to the public and are 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.

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Filed under Florida, Hurricane Irma, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Property Insurance

Pilot Theodore R. Wright III Faces Decades in Prison for Insurance Fraud

As reported by Flying Magazine, rising social media star Theodore Robert Wright III who gained notoriety for chronicling his larger-than-life flying exploits in photos on Facebook and Instagram has been charged with intentionally crashing his plane into the Gulf of Mexico to collect insurance money. Wright is facing serious prison time after federal law enforcement officials charged the 32-year-old with multiple counts of insurance fraud.

Wright and three associates (Shane Gordon of Texas, Raymond Fosdick of South Carolina, and Edward Delima of Hawaii) are charged with being involved in the destruction of a 1971 Cessna Citation, a Lamborghini Gallardo and a luxury sailboat in Hawaii, all to collect insurance payouts.

That’s not where the alleged fraud ended, prosecutors say. In an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, Wright and three associates are charged with multiple felonies. Besides the Baron, officials say Wright was involved in the destruction of a 1971 Cessna Citation, a Lamborghini Gallardo and a luxury sailboat in Hawaii, all to collect insurance payouts. Prosecutors allege the men would acquire vehicles, insure them, destroy the vehicles and then collect the insurance money, a conspiracy that lasted from March 2012 to March 2017, according to the indictment.

Click here for full article.

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Filed under Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Fraud

ROIG Attorneys Publish Ridesharing Article in Daily Business Review

ROIG Lawyers Attorneys Cecile S. Mendizabal and Lissette M. Alvarez published the article, “Ridesharing Legislation May Trigger New Wave of Litigation” in the Daily Business Review.

ROIG Lawyers Summer Law Clerk Yasbel Perez also contributed to the article.

Subscription required for full article.

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Filed under auto insurance, Claims Handling, FL Legislation, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Personal Injury Protection, PIP, PIP/No Fault, Ridesharing, Transportation Network Companies

New Opinion Released Regarding Examinations Under Oath (EUOs)

A new opinion was recently released by the Florida 9th Circuit Court in its appellate capacity interpreting Fla. Stat. § 627.736(6)(g) and the timely scheduling of Examinations Under Oath (EUOs). This case reaffirms that as a general rule, an insurer ought to schedule the initial EUO in any claim under investigation to occur within 30 days of receipt of the first bill to ensure that the investigation is being conducted well within the time limits set forth in the PIP statute without obliging the insurer to issue a payment of the subject bill prior to investigation.

In Geico Indemnity Co. v. Central Florida Chiropractic Care a/a/o David Cherry (2016-CV-000038-A-O), Central Florida Chiropractic sued Geico for breach of contract for failure to pay overdue PIP benefits. Geico asserted as an affirmative defense that coverage was appropriately denied because the assignor failed to appear for two EUOs.

Central Florida Chiropractic contested Geico’s above-described defense because the EUOs were scheduled to occur more than 30 days after the date on which Central Florida Chiropractic had submitted the bills for the alleged charges at issue and, thus, the EUOs were unreasonably set to occur beyond the 30-day statutory period for payment of said bills. In fact, the Court noted, the first EUO request was not even sent until after 30 days had lapsed. Further, Geico had not informed the claimant pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 627.736(4)(i) that his claim was pending investigation.

The 9th Circuit ruled that even though attendance at an EUO is a condition precedent to receiving PIP benefits under Fla. Stat. § 627.736(6)(g), this provision “cannot be read in a vacuum.” The Court specifically looked to section (4)(b), which requires provider bills to be processed within 30 days of receipt, and to section (4)(i), which states that the claimant should be notified in writing within 30 days of filing the claim that an investigation is under way. Geico argued that section (4)(i) permits a 60-day extension of time for investigation beyond 30 days, but the Court pointed out that Geico failed to send any letter notifying the claimant of the investigation in this case, so the 30-day window was not extended.

The Court also explained that timely payment of the provider bills does not foreclose the insurer from investigating the claim. Nonetheless, “nothing in the statute additionally excuses the insurer’s potential breach for failure to pay a PIP claim within 30 days as contemplated by section 627.736(4)(b).”

Therefore, Geico could not enforce the EUO as condition precedent to receiving PIP benefits because by the time it had scheduled the EUOs, it was already in breach of the policy as the provider’s bills were not timely paid within 30 days. “[B]ecause Geico was already in breach of the insurance contract before the EUOs were scheduled to take place, [the assignor] was not obliged to submit to them.”

The Geico case is the latest in a long line of opinions and trial court orders, starting with Amador v. United Auto. Ins. Co., 748 So. 2d 307 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999), which holds that an EUO does not toll or extend the 30-day period within which an insurer must pay otherwise timely, compensable charges pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 627.736(4)(b). Courts have also ruled that the insurer does not comply with the 30-day requirement if it coordinates the EUO within 30 days, but the EUO is nonetheless scheduled to occur beyond the 30-day window. (See Micro-Diagnostics & South Florida Inst. of Medicina a/a/o Luz Solarte v. United Auto. Ins. Co., 12 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 248a (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. App. 2004). In general, an insurer cannot defend claims on the basis of a claimant’s failure to attend an EUO if said EUO is scheduled to occur outside the 30-day period after submission of the medical bills. (See Humanitary Health Care, Inc. a/a/o Juan Esquivel v. United Auto. Ins. Co., 12 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 531b (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. 2005).

However, a Miami-Dade appellate court did find that an insurer may still benefit from the claimant’s failure to appear for an EUO if said EUO is initially scheduled to occur within 30 days, but then rescheduled for a later date at the claimant’s request. (See West Dixie Rehab. & Medical Ctr. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 10 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 16a (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. App. 2002)).

The above cases make clear that any communications regarding the re-scheduling of an EUO ought to be done in writing, with language that clearly communicates that the change in date was done to accommodate the request of the insured or insured’s attorney. When appropriate, the insurer may send a letter to the claimant or claimant’s attorney pursuant to section (4)(i) advising that a claim is under investigation within 30 days of the claim filing. This will extend the time period within which an investigation may be conducted up to 90days after the submission of the claim, and thus allows additional time before any provider bills must be processed.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue in greater detail, please feel free to contact us.

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 from 7 offices throughout the state of Florida. 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. E-mail list/s from ROIG Lawyers are intended to provide information of general interest to the public and are 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.

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Filed under auto insurance, Case Law, Claims Handling, Examinations Under Oath (EUO), FL Legislation, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Personal Injury Protection, PIP, PIP/No Fault