State Farm is Florida's leading auto insurance provider; free quotes, great prices, and wildly popular. However, since around 2012, they haven't been the friendliest of neighbors, growing to become the most aggressive, persistent, and courtroom desk-cluttering defendants for PIP claims in Florida's county courts today.
The personal injury protection attorneys that represent State Farm policyholders—like you and I—explain that State Farm makes it an unreasonable or rarely beneficial option to pursue them in court.
Traditionally, an insured patient would receive treatment from a medical provider. The medical provider would later seek payment from the insurance provider based on insurance information given by the patient; for example, an insurance card.
State Farm, according to Ross Abramowitz, Florida PIP attorney from Fort Lauderdale, he “first noticed a change in State Farm's legal tactics in 2012.”
He further explains how they would purposely draw out trails, depositions, and so on, making a timely trial unachievable for plaintiffs.
To top it all off, courts in the southern region of Florida were getting bombarded by these PIP cases involving State Farm. The attorneys that were representing the interest of policyholders (by bring forth lawsuits to pay medical providers for services rendered) seemed to gravitate towards those regional courtrooms, regardless of where the original accident took place.
According to Michal Brower—the spokeswoman for State Farm—“State Farm has always decided whether to defend or settle a case based on the individual merits of a particular claim.”
The conflicting interests of medical providers' attorneys and auto insurance providers have proved difficult to tame for many years now. Some of the most recent changes in PIP operations were in 2013 when providers capped the amount of coverage they would provide to policyholders unless diagnosed with an “emergency medical condition” by a licensed medical provider.
Insurance providers used to cover PIP patients for up to $10,000 in medical treatment, but now, only $2,500 is allotted unless a licensed physician declare that a seriously debilitating injury has been sustained in the accident—in which case, a patient would once again be eligible to receive the full $10,000.
In one case, Abramowitz tells sources that State Farm requested 7 depositions in court and ended up taking 5 of them. The amount of money being disputed was for a $354 medical bill. Each deposition transcript costs $800, rendering the plaintiff powerless. It appears that State Farm would rather spend well in excess of the amount of the medical bill in order to punish the physician.
By making their opposition fight for a null cause, State Farm is strategically reflecting any PIP claims filed against them and saving boatloads of money by doing so.
Brower explains that most of the PIP claims are “filed by medical providers who have received partial payment and are seeking more.”
Of all the personal injury protection claims in Florida (most of which filed by medical professionals), 20 percent of them are against State Farm.
I would guess that an equal amount of State Farm PIP cases were sprinkled over the state's courtrooms, but this is not the case for Broward and Miami-Dade counties. According to Broward Country Court Judge Robert Lee, almost half of their pending PIP cases involved State Farm—that's around 7,100 cases.
Likewise, the Miami-Dade courts are jam-packed with 21,837 PIP cases—44 percent of all of their cases—that are related to or directly associated with State Farm.
Licensed massage therapist Larry Fishman was forced to end his practice and pursue a more sustainable career when, in 2013, PIP law was altered to prohibited the coverage of massage therapists when used as a form of treatment. Many patients who would have gone in to his business were only going in because they were covered by PIP and needed medical attention.
He took State Farm to court pertaining to an unpaid bill of $374 and was hoping for reimbursement. What he didn't expect was the vigorous attempt at sweeping the bill under the rug made by the opposition. Despite clearly stating that he had to leave shortly after to bring his sick daughter to her doctor's appointment, State Farm turned an expected 2-hour deposition into a lengthy two hours and forty-five minutes.
Fishman was furious and took it upon himself to take action, saying
"We're going to end this, first of all. Secondly, you guys are trained at what you do, OK? You are very trained at how to manipulate the situation, how to ask questions that put words in people's mouths, and you keep asking the same question over and over and over hoping that I say things differently,"
Fishman continued his rant.
"These are the same answers that you got, not your company, but every time that I've been deposed you get the same answers every single time. I don't know what the problem is. You're making money, you're making money, and I'm sitting here waiting for $300 with a daughter sick at home going through this."
Fishman was then recommended by the State Farm attorney to come back for another deposition to settle this once and for all; he wasn't alright with that.
His attorney demanded a protective order to stop the case and the judge moved to declare the deposition as “witness harassment”, effectively defaulting the case's verdict in Fishman's favor.
For more information on personal injury protection and claims, your legal rights, bad faith insurance practices, and what you should do to protect yourself from the wrongdoing of others, contact the experienced personal injury protection lawyers at Clearwater's Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation and case evaluation.
We can guide you through the process of making a PIP claim and getting you the compensation you deserve for being injured due to someone else's negligence.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33756 727-451-6900
Practice Area: Personal Injury Protection