Tag Archives: Car Insurance

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.

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

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.

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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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

Chiropractor’s Challenge To ‘PIP’ Law Kicked Back By Appeals Court

In a 14-page ruling on Wednesday, February 15th, the 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld part of a 2012 overhaul of the state’s personal-injury protection auto insurance system that limits No-Fault (Personal Injury Protection) benefits to $2,500 for individuals who were not diagnosed with an emergency medical condition. The appeals court overturned a judge’s decision in a Miami-Dade County court citing arguments that the 2012 law overhaul was intended to help prevent fraud in the PIP insurance system, but was unconstitutional.

The ruling was in response to chiropractor Eduardo Garrido’s legal victory against Progressive American Insurance Company. Garrido was seeking a determination that the insurer should pay up to the policy limit of $10,000 in the absence of diagnosis that the patient suffered an emergency medical condition as the result of an automobile accident. He also challenged that it was unconstitutional to bar chiropractors from being able to diagnose patients with having suffered an emergency medical condition. The chiropractor treated a patient after an accident in 2013 and submitted invoices to Progressive who only paid $2,500 of the $6,075 billed. According to Progressive, there had been no determination, other than Dr. Garrido’s, a chiropractor, that the patient suffered an emergency medical condition.

Click here to view the full story.

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

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty resigns

On January 5, 2016, Kevin McCarty resigned as Florida’s top insurance regulator and stated that his departure would be effective May 2, 2016, according to Bradenton Herald. McCarty, 56, is the state’s Insurance Commissioner who decides how much homeowners pay for their property insurance.  He was appointed to the position in 2003 by Governor Jeb Bush and has served under the leadership of three Governors since then. Under Bush tenure, McCarty helped navigate the state through a series of devastating hurricanes while seeking to protect elderly consumers from fraudulent merchants of insurance products.

After many years of navigating the capital’s perilous political landscape McCarty was viewed as vulnerable after Governor Rick Scott took the oath as governor for the second time. Scott’s office already had a replacement in mind: Ron Henderson, a Louisiana insurance official who was being promoted by Fred Karlinsky, a Tallahassee Lobbyist for insurance interests and Scott supporter. Consumer groups rallied to McCarty’s side as a result of the controversy following Scott’s removal of Gerald Bailey as the state’s top law enforcement official.

McCarty is the state’s first appointed insurance commissioner and director of the state Office of Insurance Regulation. His successor must win the support of both Scott and Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, in a vote by the Governor and Cabinet.

McCarty’s departure leaves an empty position, one of the most challenging jobs in state government due to the sensitivity surrounding the cost and availability of insurance in a state vulnerable to hurricanes and insurance fraud.

Click here to read article.

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Filed under Florida, Insurance, Insurance Fraud