In a recent article, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) advised the State of Florida to address potential insurance coverage issues under Florida law related to Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft. Insurance trade groups are concerned about the gray area regarding insurance coverage as it relates to TNCs.
The issue centers on when auto insurance coverage provided through transportation network companies begins. According to PCI, “Personal auto insurance policies are not intended for commercial use and will not cover damages if it is determined the driver was using their vehicle for hire.’’ This issue could leave drivers at financial risk if they were in an accident since they may not have the proper insurance coverage when driving for a TNC.
During the 2015 Florida Legislative Session, House Bill 817 and Senate Bill 1298 were introduced to address the insurance coverage issues. However, the sudden end to the legislative session prevented these vital bills from coming to a full vote on the floor.
PCI, along with other trade groups, hopes to see this insurance coverage issue resolved by the Florida Legislature and hopes to see progress in the upcoming legislative session. California, Colorado and most recently Georgia have adopted insurance coverage parameters to address the insurance gap related to TNCs.
It has come to light through an investigation conducted by the Associated Press that four of the 48 self-driving cars on California’s roads have been involved in four accidents since September 2014. In a recent article published on Quartz.com, two of the accidents occurred while the self-driving vehicle was driving, and the other two accidents occurred while the human safety driver was in control. The two companies responsible for the self-driving vehicles were Google and Delphi. Google’s Director of self-driving program, Chris Urmson, revealed that the tech giant’s fleet has experienced 11 minor accidents in 1.7 million miles in six years since the driverless car program began.
The AP reported that the national rate for reported “property damage only crashes” is about 0.3 per 100,000 miles driven, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Administration. If one uses this statistic and compares Google’s crashes in about 140,000 miles the crash rate seems high.
The self-driving car program is required to submit data to the California Department of Motor Vehicles; however this information has not been readily released to the public based on the state’s Vehicle Code which requires accident reports concerning traffic injuries or fatalities to remain confidential.
Many believe that as a matter of public policy the government does not want to reveal to much information since they do not want these tech companies to be put under a microscope while this program is still in its testing phase.
The self-driving car program has yet too prove to be as flexible and responsive as humans on the road in dealing with unpredictable situations on the road.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced today at a press conference the success of “Operation Flames and Flood Two” which charged 31 individuals with insurance fraud. According to the State Attorney’s Office the operation focused on public adjuster, Jorge Fausto Espinosa, who was hired by policy holders to damage the insured homes for the purpose to collect ill-gotten gains from insurance companies. Jorge Fausto Espinosa, who is already facing charges in a similar fraud case from last year, called “Operation Flames and Flood One”, deliberately staged fire and water damage claims to residential homes in Miami-Dade County, Lehigh Acres, and Naples.
“Operation Flames and Flood Two” focused on the expansion of Espinosa’s fraud activities through his Miami-Dade company, Nationwide Adjusters LLC, into the west coast of Florida into Collier and Lee counties. According to the State Attorney’s Office operation two involved 20 staged fires with loses close to $ 7 million. Several homeowners also face charges for their role in the fraud.
The Florida Department of Financial Services Insurance Fraud Division charged Trisha Michelle Milstead a resident of Century, FL with one felony count of insurance fraud. Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille stated that on September 8, 2014 Milstead was involved in a vehicle accident, but at the time her vehicle policy had lapsed for non-payment. She then reinstated her insurance policy on September 9, signing a statement that there had been no previous damage during the lapsed time period. Two days after the policy was reinstated she filed a claim for the accident and damage associated.
Trisha Milstead remains in the Escambia County Jail with bond set at $10,000 and is scheduled for an arraignment hearing next month.
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On May 12, State Attorney Bill Eddins announced the arrest of Randall Peterson. Peterson was a Cantonment insurance agent who conducted a fraudulent insurance scheme while operating under multiple business names which involved the theft of several hundred thousand dollars of commissions and bonuses from American National Insurance Company and Liberty National Insurance Company.
Peterson’s scheme began with him advertising job opportunities on the Internet for his fictitious company, College Consultants of the Gulf Coast. He then had hundreds of applicants provide information for life insurance which he and his associates expressed to the job applicants as a free job benefit. The prosecutor’s office showed that Peterson used the information from the job applicants to complete life insurance applications that he submitted to the insurance companies in order to receive advanced commissions, which were as much as 130 percent of the first year premiums and bonuses.
Randall Peterson was found guilty of racketeering and money laundering by Circuit Court Judge Ross Goodman. The state will request at a future hearing that restitution be set at an amount over $500,000.
Roig Lawyers attorneys and healthcare policy advisor will speak at 23rd annual Florida Insurance Fraud Education Committee (FIFEC) Conference on June 12, 2015 in Orlando, FL. Nelson C. Bellido, Dennis La Rosa, Miguel Roura, and Diego Arredondo will present “Mechanisms Available to Adjusters During Review for Regulatory and Compliance Issues”. The presentation will focus on recent developments in the law, insurance adjuster review process for regulatory compliance issues, administrative regulation and the relationship to PIP under §627.732(11), and PIP amendments and licensing issues.
FIFEC is a non-profit corporation comprised of special investigative unit investigators, law enforcement personnel and dedicated individuals whose purpose is to organize and present an annual statewide educational seminar related to deterring, detecting, investigating and prosecuting insurance fraud. FIFEC is proud of its mission to provide insurance fraud education and training by giving grants to the law enforcement and criminal justice community that attend what is now known as the annual FIFEC Conference.
About Roig Lawyers
Roig Lawyers is a multi-practice Florida Litigation firm with an unfaltering growing presence in the legal market celebrating 15 years of service, with more than 100 attorneys in 6 offices in Deerfield Beach, Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Tallahassee. Roig Lawyers offers unparalleled legal representation in the areas of commercial litigation, construction, corporate law, real estate, banking and finance, labor and employment, and all phases of insurance defense litigation.
For more information about Roig Lawyers, visit www.roiglawyers.com.
On May 6, 2015, the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud announced the arrest of three Broward County men on charges of insurance fraud. The men reportedly collected more than $77,000 in insurance payments after staging a Lauderdale-by-the-Sea car crash, recruiting and paying people to feign injuries and undergo unnecessary therapy.
Ronie Petidos, 34, of Coral Springs, Patrick Logene, 39, of Fort Lauderdale, and Marc la Pierre, 27, of Coconut Creek, each face a single count of insurance fraud. Each of these felony charges carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
The arrested individuals staged an automobile accident using a hotel van filled with passengers who participated in the scam and sent the participants to clinics that they controlled. The arrested van passengers include Shaeronda Jackson, Kennsly Giles and Jeffrey Louis of Fort Lauderdale, Jean Regisma of Lauderhill, Stephen Blanc of Lauderdale Lakes.
Ronie Petidos and Marc La Pierre were previously arrested in 2014 for their role in another staged accident that occurred in 2012. The criminal case is still pending in Broward County Court.
Clink on the link for the Florida Department of Financial Services announcement.