Tag Archives: Auto Insurance

UPDATE: Ringleader Pleads Guilty To His Role In $23 Million Auto Insurance Fraud Crime Ring

Andrew Rubinstein of Miami and the self-confessed ringleader, Felix Filenger of Sunny Isles pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge last year. Rubinstein and Filenger were paying kickbacks to tow truck drivers and body shop workers who illegally steered accident victims to chiropractic clinics they owned at a rate of $1,500 to $2,000 per “patient.” Clinic workers would then have patients attend multiple visits, document exaggerated pain levels, and bill insurance providers for treatment in the amount of $10,000, the maximum allowed under Florida law.

According to Prosecutors, the clinics were located throughout south and central Florida, including Sunrise, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Pompano Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Miami, Orlando and Kissimmee.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, both sides had agreed to recommend the six-year sentence for Rubinstein. Filenger’s sentencing has been postponed. Several other people who also admitted their roles in the fraud are scheduled for sentencing later this year.

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

Comments Off on UPDATE: Ringleader Pleads Guilty To His Role In $23 Million Auto Insurance Fraud Crime Ring

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

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.

Comments Off on Florida Man Arrested for False Insurance Claim

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

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.

Click here for full article.

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

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

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.

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

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.

Comments Off on Panama City Woman Sinks SUV for Insurance Money

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

Insurance Agent Allegedly Sold Fraudulent Insurance Policy

According to the Palm Beach Post, Fred Thomas Jr., 39, is facing charges of fraud and embezzlement between $300 and $2,000 after he allegedly sold a Palm Beach County woman fraudulent/fake car insurance during a three-year period. Thomas was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol on Interstate 95 for driving with a suspended license when the trooper found an active warrant for Thomas in the insurance fraud case.

Click here for the full article.

Comments Off on Insurance Agent Allegedly Sold Fraudulent Insurance Policy

Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud, Palm Beach County

Auto Insurance Market to Shrink by 2050 According to KPMG

According to updated research by KPMG, the auto insurance market will shrink by more than 70 percent by 2050 due to autonomous vehicle technology and a rise in on-demand transportation, shifting liability to manufacturers.

KPMG did an updated study called The Chaotic Middle: The Autonomous Vehicle and Disruption in Automobile Insurance that shows an increase in the demand for new types of insurance products with traditional auto insurance carriers facing the threat of obsolescence. Auto manufacturers have become the likely alternative to covering driving risk according to the study.

According to the consulting firm, three major forces are disrupting the current auto insurance marketplace:

  • Autonomous Technology – making cars increasingly safer
  • Auto Manufacturers (OEMs) – assuming more of the driving risk and associated liability
  • Mobility-On-Demand – quickly translating into the need for less personal auto coverage

KPMG believes that all of this means that auto insurance carriers need to act now. “Insurance companies will have to make important strategic and tactical changes sooner than anticipated to navigate through this turbulent transformation of the industry,” said Jerry Albright, principal in KPMG’s Actuarial and Insurance Risk practice.

Click here to read the full article.

Comments Off on Auto Insurance Market to Shrink by 2050 According to KPMG

Filed under auto insurance, Autonomous Technology, Insurance

Florida Insurance Rates Rise Thanks to Windshield-Replacement Schemes

According to Insurance Business America, your auto insurance premiums are going up, all because of ongoing windshield-replacement schemes.  As reported by Ryan Smith of Insurance Business America, these windshield schemes involve drivers with cracked windshields signing over insurance benefits to windshield repair and replacement shops.  These shops, through an “assignment of benefits”, will then submit an inflated invoice for the work allegedly rendered.

The Tampa Bay area has become the hub of the fraud and abuse involving these schemes.  More often then not, the fraudulent schemes are no fault of the insureds.   Florida law states that a deductible cannot be applied to windshield replacement and repair services.  This allows these shops to advertise that the work being done is “free” to the insureds.  The result of these “free” services has led to over 1900 windshield-claim lawsuits in Florida in 2016 alone; increasing litigation costs and ultimately hitting everyone’s pocket.

Click here for full article.

Comments Off on Florida Insurance Rates Rise Thanks to Windshield-Replacement Schemes

Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, Insurance, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud, Windshield, Windshield Damage Scam

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.

Comments Off on ROIG Attorneys Publish Ridesharing Article in Daily Business Review

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.

Comments Off on New Opinion Released Regarding Examinations Under Oath (EUOs)

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