Carlos Guillermo Aponte of Palmetto Bay was arrested in September for three counts of insurance fraud and grand theft for allegedly defrauding Citizens Property Insurance Corp. The Department of Financial Services’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team (DFAST) investigated Aponte after receiving a tip about fraudulent invoices and false rental agreements with letters claiming lost of rent for more than $30,000.
Aponte could face prison time of up to 45 years and fines up to $45,000.
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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has confirmed Tesla’s claim that its Autopilot and active safety features result in ‘fewer physical damage, injury liability claims.’ However, IIHS also found that the introduction of these features could increase other kinds of claims.
The combined driver assistance features on the 2014–16 Model S lowered the frequency of claims filed under property damage liability (PDL) and bodily injury (BI) liability coverage with the 2012–14 Model S without the technology. However, IIHS didn’t find that they lowered the frequency of collision claims. They also saw increases in MedPay and PIP claims.
Highway Loss Data Institute’s senior vice president, Matt Moore, admits that they would need more data to really understand the effect of Autopilot.
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Travelers Institute released a white paper expressing their view on autonomous vehicles (AVs) and the role the auto insurance industry should play in addressing the significant policy questions and challenges that will inevitably arise in the future. An insurer that has been around for more than 160 years, Travelers applauds the safety advances of AVs and believes that the current auto system can accommodate AVs and non-AVs.
Click here for the white paper.
Brian Lee Caswell of Deltona was arrested and charged with second-degree arson, arson resulting in injury, burning to defraud an insurer, giving false information to a law enforcement officer and making a false police report.
According to Caswell’s arrest warrant, he had hatched a plan with Alex Spivey of Orlando and Melinda Philbrook of Lady Lake to destroy their truck and collect an insurance payout. Caswell initially claimed the vehicle had been stolen, but later admitted planning the scheme after co-conspirator Spivey caught fire during the arson.
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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.
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.
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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On Monday, July 10th, 14 people were charged in “Investigation Vehicle Roulette” conducted by Florida’s Bureau of Insurance Fraud and the State Attorney’s Office. Two GEICO insurance adjusters, Juan Carlos Diaz and Cesar Santiago Tapanes, prosecutors say got cash kickbacks for helping defraud their own company were among those arrested.
In September 2016, a Lexus GS350 was involved in a fender bender with a Chrysler 320 in North Miami-Dade. The rogue insurance adjusters reported inspecting the Lexus and authorized a series of payments totaling over $16,000. However, investigators say the accident never actually happened.
In fact, the same Lexus had been the subjection of 10 previous claims involving crashes that never occurred, all signed off by Diaz and Tapanes. The scam ended up costing GEICO more than a million dollars.
According to an arrest warrant by detectives, at least 45 bogus claims were made. The group faces charges including grand theft, insurance fraud, and racketeering.
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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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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.
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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.
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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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