$6 Million Anthem Blue Cross Insurance Settlement

Recently, there has been another settlement in a case against an insurance company in regarding unfair insurance practices. According to news sources, last month the current Los Angeles city attorney, announced a settlement of $6 million from Anthem Blue Cross; although the company still hasn’t admitted any fault in the matter. Before the settlement, the case was in Los Angeles Superior Court as People v. WellPoint, Inc. et al., WellPoint being Anthem’s parent company. The company has about 1.8 million policies in the state. The lawsuit against Anthem was filed in 2008 alleging that the insurance company illegally dropped 6,000 policyholders between 2002 and 2008. Continue reading “$6 Million Anthem Blue Cross Insurance Settlement”

Another Insurance Agent Scam in Our Area

Our Florida insurance attorneys saw another unfortunate news story about an unscrupulous insurance agent scamming his customers out of their hard earned money. This happens too frequently (see a previous blog post here) and Florida insurance customers need to be informed and mindful of potential scams and shady agents and insurance companies. This recent scam was committed by 45 year old Boynton Beach insurance agent Kenneth Sachs and he was arrested last week by Palm Beach County deputies for embezzlement and misappropriation of insurance funds. Continue reading “Another Insurance Agent Scam in Our Area”

Fast Track Changes for Property Insurance Ends Next Week

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty issued an order last year letting residential property insurance providers make changes to their policies more quickly. Florida property insurance lawyers took note of the fact that these fast tracked procedures will end next week on Monday. Commissioner McCarty is still deciding whether to extend the order or not, which consumer advocates and other insurance lawyers have argued is a measure that easily leads to abuses, as the insurance industry saying “trust me, the changes are fair” is not enough. Office of Insurance Regulation spokesperson Amy Bolger said on Wednesday that the office had not decided on the extension yet. hurricane damage.jpg

Commissioner McCarty’s order was in response to recent state budget cut backs that left the Office of Insurance Regulation flooded with a large amount of filings from insurance companies asking for changes to the coverage they provide. The order allows the insurance company to assert that the changes comply with Florida law and allows them to offer the changes to policyholders after 30 days, with no review by state regulators. This is why many are concerned about the self regulation allowed under this order, because Florida insurance customers shouldn’t have to suffer because the Office of Insurance Regulation has too many backlogged forms and an insufficient budget. Continue reading “Fast Track Changes for Property Insurance Ends Next Week”

Largest Private Insurance Company Fined by State

The largest private property insurance company in Florida, second largest overall after state-run Citizens Insurance, has been slapped with a $1.26 million fine for several violations, including unnecessarily delaying claims payments to policyholders. As Florida property insurance lawyers, we know that holding insurance companies accountable for unfair behavior towards their customers is important for keeping the insurance market honest. dollar sign.jpg

Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company, which is a subsidiary of Universal Insurance Holdings and is based in Fort Lauderdale, has about 542,000 policyholders in Florida and receives about $765 million in premium payments each year from those policyholders, according to news sources. State regulators from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation have been reviewing Universal for some time, and the president and CEO stepped down in February while the investigation was ongoing.

Continue reading “Largest Private Insurance Company Fined by State”

Oklahoma Tornado Not Going to Affect Florida Insurance Rates

All Americans feel for Oklahomans right now, and our Florida property insurance lawyer feels compassion for those affected by the devastating tornado. But for those in our state struggling to pay already high insurance costs, it will be a relief to know aggressive insurance companies can’t use the tragedy of the Oklahoma tornado to jack up insurance rates in Florida.gavel.jpg

Bob Hartwig, the president of the Insurance Information Institute, reminded reporters recently that by law insurance companies have to set rates based on the costs involved in doing business in that particular state. But he did note that after a major natural disaster, like a tornado or hurricane, the question is usually about the cost of reinsurance, which is what insurance companies buy to try to help with payments to policyholders after these natural disasters. But, Mr. Hartwig said that even at the highest estimates of the losses in Oklahoma, which are possibly above $2 billion, wouldn’t have an impact on the reinsurance market. He pointed out that $2 billion is only one tenth of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy last year. Continue reading “Oklahoma Tornado Not Going to Affect Florida Insurance Rates”

Injunction on Parts of Florida’s PIP Law

Under Florida insurance law, vehicle drivers are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to cover medical expenses in the case of an accident and injury. PIP is meant to be an alternative to a legal liability system, covering the driver under the state’s no fault accident laws. A new PIP law, one aspect of reforms made to the law last year, has excluded acupuncturists, massage therapists, and chiropractors from covered medical treatments. Those groups of medical providers filed a case against the law itself, which Judge Terry Lewis at the Second Circuit Court recently decided in Myers v. McCarty Case No. 2013 CA 73.

These medical providers claim the law threatens their business viability. The new law provides for $10,000 in emergency medical care but only $2,500 for non-emergency injuries, which is much of what chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists do for patients with more chronic conditions. Judge Lewis had granted this group an injunction blocking this part of the law, and in this most recent decision he revisited his injunction and decided to uphold it. Judge Lewis said he understood the difficulties from insurance companies and Florida regulators, but that he continued to feel a temporary injunction was appropriate relief to remain in effect. He highlighted that while he also understood the concerns of the medical providers, his main motivation in continuing the injunction is for Floridians’ right of access to the courts. Judge Lewis said, “The reason for issuing the injunction was to protect the constitutional right and prevent the potential harm to citizens injured in auto accidents who, under the present PIP statute, may not receive necessary medical care.”

In response to this recent ruling upholding the injunction, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation filed a motion to expedite review of the decision at the First District Court of Appeals. They brought questions about the validity of Judge Lewis’ decision. The motion states that Judge Lewis ignored a Florida Supreme Court precedent that states a law has a presumption of constitutionality unless it is beyond all reasonable doubt that it conflicts with the constitution. The motion also claims that Judge Lewis’ injunction gave no indication of what insurance regulators are supposed to do, only blocking that part of the law and leaving policyholders in an unclear position.

It seems Florida lawmakers are happy to leave this decision up to the courts. Despite being central to Governor Rick Scott’s agenda last year, it seems the state government does not want to confront PIP reform again this year.

With the issue in this case clearly being framed to preserve access to the courts for Florida victims, if you have been injured in an accident and are having a problem with your insurance provider, contact a Florida insurance attorney to learn about your options as soon as possible. Under Florida law, if you proceed with a case and you succeed. the attorney’s fees will automatically be the responsibility of the insurance company. So no matter the size of your claim, you would get to keep the court award and not have to worry about paying lawyer’s fees.

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Court Upholds Florida Sinkhole Property Insurance Rule

Sinkholes have been in the news lately and Floridians are rightly concerned about both safety and ensuring their property is properly covered by insurance in case a sinkhole damages their home. Building off of our last post on sinkholes and the difficulties for homeowners and their insurance policies in Florida (see post here), our Florida property insurance lawyers saw another recent story about a case involving this very issue. Continue reading “Court Upholds Florida Sinkhole Property Insurance Rule”

Sinkholes and Your Home

Over the last few years, there seems to have been an increase in sinkhole activity in Florida. This has had much impact on the properties affected, as Florida property insurance attorneys know. And now the nation’s attention has been turned to the issue because of the tragic sinkhole that took Floridian Jeff Bush’s life a few weeks ago, when a sinkhole swallowed him while he was in his bedroom in his home, preparing to retire to bed for the night. Continue reading “Sinkholes and Your Home”

Class-Action Against State-Run Citizens Insurance

Insurance customers of Florida’s state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. have filed a class-action lawsuit in Broward County to stop their reinspection program, according to news reports. The policyholders claim they’ve been hit with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in what they call “back-door” rate increases. They claim Citizens managed to do this by performing what the plaintiffs say were arbitrary reinspections of their properties and then hitting the policyholders with higher windstorm premiums. Continue reading “Class-Action Against State-Run Citizens Insurance”

$6 Million Award to Victim of Insurance Company

Debra Peters is the hardworking co-owner of Custom Wood Creations, Inc, a Pompano Beach company that made high-end cabinets and furniture. The other co-owner is Debra’s husband, Ronald. The company suffered significant damage in 2005 due to Hurricane Wilma, but their insurance company, FCCI Commercial Insurance Co, refused to pay what they owed the couple, despite the fact that the Peters’ policy was up to date and paid in full. Florida insurance attorneys see this kind of scenario all the time, unfortunately. But what happened next brought Debra Peters’ case from the unfortunate and unfair to the horrific and nightmarish.

According to news reports, the insurance company not only refused to pay the claim, but the company instead accused Debra of insurance fraud. FCCI filed false and incomplete information on her to the Florida Department of Insurance, which resulted in criminal charges against Debra. She was arrested and spent 16 hours in jail. The criminal case was eventually thrown out for lack of evidence, but not before she and her family suffered from the emotional strain of the experience. And due to FCCI’s refusal to pay the claim for the hurricane damage, Ronald and Debra had to borrow money from friends to fix their building. In addition, they could not gather enough money to fix their equipment, so they ended up having to lease the space to another company, where Ronald now works.

This week, the Peters got some vindication when a Broward County Circuit Court jury awarded them $6 million from FCCI for breaching a contract and malicious prosecution after a three-week-long trial. It is broken down as $4.8 million in compensatory damages to recover what the Peters’ lost, and $1.2 million in punitive damages to punish the bad behavior of the insurance company. The jury found that FCCI intended to harm Debra Peters and that the company did so with unreasonable financial gain as the motivation. Their attorneys stated that Debra and Ronald Peters “just want to get back to work and restart their business, as they would have done if the insurance company had only paid what was owed after the hurricane.”

FCCI’s senior vice-president said they were disappointed with the Broward County ruling and are considering appealing the judgment, claiming their reputation is “paramount.” This could delay settlement of the case.

Cases like Debra and Ronald Peters’, where an insurance company pushes the less powerful customer around and tries to cheat the policyholder out of benefits paid for and due, show why it is important to talk to a Florida insurance attorney about your situation. And it is also important to remember that if you proceed with a case, under Florida law, if you succeed, the attorney’s fees will automatically be the responsibility of the insurance company. This means that no matter how big or small your claim, if you win your case, you get to keep the entire award and the insurance company will pay all of your lawyer’s fees.

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