Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Battle in Florida

The Daily Business Review last week wrote an unbelievable article about a battle between an insurance company and its policyholders. This has been the landscape since Chinese and Babylonian traders started issuing insurance about two thousand years ago. But, in this story, the insurance company has expanded its war to include Florida judges.

United Automobile Insurance Company’s lawyers are seeking to remove a Florida judge from all Personal Injury Protection (PIP) accident cases involving the insurance company, citing the judge’s alleged bias.

The Florida-based carrier’s attorneys have moved to disqualify Broward County Court Judge Jay from “any and all cases involving United Automobile Insurance Company as a litigant.” United alleges that Judge Spechler routinely displays “pre-disposition, prejudice and bias” against its attorneys. In an interview, Judge Spechler, who has served on the bench for 19 years, estimated that, incredibly, two-thirds of his cases are PIP disputes with this insurance company.

This is not United Auto’s first attack on a Florida judge. Last month, United Auto’s lawyers also moved to disqualify Miami-Dade County Court Judge Jacqueline Schwartz from sitting on PIP cases.

Apparently, United Auto is well known among Florida counsel for their insurance attorneys’ aggressive fight against its own policyholders making PIP claims. In 2004, Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation fined the company $75,000 for fighting 96 percent of its policyholders’ claims, because if the carrier really discovered that much fraud, it was negligent in not reporting it to the state.

Apparently, the gloves are off, and I mean off and this time the fight is not against plaintiffs. United general counsel Charles Grimsley is saying that judges have not treated United fairly in the courtroom and that he believed judges were being “paid off,” although he admitted he could not prove it. Later, Mr. Grimsley backed away from his allegation by saying he does not think there is “any money changing hands.” United Auto apparently then took out advertisements stating that Mr. Grimsely’s statement “does not remotely reflect the opinion of United Automobile Insurance or any of its defense attorneys.”

Ninety-six percent of claims are fraudulent? This is beyond incredible. United Auto is basically declaring war on its policyholders in an effort to discourage claims. United Auto is the leading auto insurance company in Florida. Martin Luther King said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. I have to think that this arc will soon bend towards the justice of United Auto losing its market share in Florida.

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