Our Blog Has Moved

Hello all!  Cohen Battisti, Attorneys at Law has transitioned its blog from WordPress to our new website.  Don’t worry!  We’ll have the same great legal content, but in a shiny new place.  We will still post some stuff here from time to time, but the majority of our content will be on our new blog.  Check out ItsAboutJustice.Law on our new site!  We’ll see you there!

ItsAboutJustice.Law

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Family Law 101- Attend Our Family Law Workshop January 21, 2014

Family Law 101-  Attend our family law workshop

Going through a divorce can be a tough experience. You are not alone! Cohen Battisti, Attorneys at Law is here to help you. Join us at our free workshop covering what you need to know about Family Law. Light hor d’oeuvres will be provided.

Start off 2014 on the right foot and have your family law questions answered.

“Partial Assignments” can be Fatal for Restoration Contractors’ Attempts to Collect Insurance Payments, and Increase Liability for Insureds

Image cohen battisti partital assignments assignment of benefits orlando property damage attorney

Homeowners and restoration contractors who attempt to enter into a partial assignment of insurance benefits should know that partial assignments for the contractor’s services have repeatedly been found to be invalid contracts in Florida courts.  An invalid assignment contract typically results in the homeowner remaining 100% responsible for paying the contractor for the services performed on the home.  This is because the insurance company is not required to honor true partial assignments and courts will not enforce an invalid contract.

Sometimes insurance companies will say that a valid, complete assignment is just a “partial assignment” because the insurance company thinks both the policyholder and the contractor are trying to collect payment for the services the contractor performed.  However, this is not what either the policyholder or the contractor intended in the assignment of benefits.  Once the policyholder assigns the rights and benefits to the contractor to allow direct billing and collect payment for the services the contractor performed, the policyholder no longer has any rights or interest in collecting payment for services performed by that contractor.  The policyholder transferred those rights and interests to the contractor, so only the contractor is entitled to collect insurance payment for their invoice.

The assignment of benefits should state that the policyholder assigns and transfers “any and all insurance rights, benefits and proceeds under any applicable insurance policy” to the restoration contractor.  It should be clear that the policyholder has made a complete assignment of benefits to the contractor and not a partial assignment.  This is because Florida courts have held that only one entity “owns” the cause of action against an insurer at any one time and the one that owns the claim must bring the action if an action is to be brought.  The reasoning is that in the case of a partial assignment, if both the policyholder and the contractor own the rights to collect payment for the contractor’s services, the insurance company is subject to multiple suits or claims for the same amount due.

Image assignment of benefits cohen battisti attorneys at law orlando florida attorney insurance claims disputes

Slide from Cohen Battisti’s “Insider Secrets” Slideshow

In a typical property damage insurance claim where a policyholder hires a contractor, the policyholder may assign and transfer the rights and benefits to collect payment for its services to the contractor in exchange for the contractor not requiring immediate payment from the policyholder at the time services are provided.  The policyholder still remains responsible for amounts owed that the insurance company does not pay in benefits.  Once the assignment takes place, the contractor owns the claim only for the value of the services they performed, and has the policyholder’s permission to directly bill the insurance company for payment of these services.

If an insurance company does not issue full payment to the contractor for its services performed after receiving a proper assignment of benefits and the contractor’s invoice, and after certain conditions are met, the contractor can proceed to collect payment directly from the insurance carrier, and if that fails, then to file suit against the insurance company.

The bottom line is that with a complete assignment of insurance benefits given to a contractor for collecting payment for services they performed, the contractor is the only owner of the claim for their services rendered.  It is important to avoid partial assignments because it may not be found valid and may not be enforced in a court of law.  Moreover, with a complete assignment given to a contractor for services rendered, the policyholder still, always maintains the rights to collect benefits for any damages they have which are not related to the contractor’s services performed.  The list is long but can for example include payments for additional or supplemental property damage that needs repairs in the same claim, or for additional living expenses.

If you have any questions about an Assignment of Benefits or partial assignments, consult a licensed Florida attorney.  At Cohen Battisti, we handle these assignment issues every day regarding insurance disputes and want to help you get paid.

Red Light Camera Tickets in Florida – Fair Game?

cohen battisti attorneys at law winter park orlando lawyer red traffic light cameras

A notice appears in your mailbox.  The envelope has a return address from New York or another random state.  Inside the envelope is a traffic citation, with various color photographs of your vehicle breezing through a red light in a nearby town.  Listed on the citation is your license plate number, date and time of the infraction, and most intrusively, a fine in the amount of $158.00.  To top it off, the Notice provides thirty short days to pay the fine or to challenge the citation in a Florida court.

The first thing that runs through your mind is how is this even possible?  Was I driving my vehicle on this particular date and on this particular time?  Had I loaned my car to a spouse or to a friend?  Why is New York citing me for a traffic infraction that allegedly occurred in Florida?  Is any of this nonsense even lawful?  The notice from New York seems to be legitimate.

Red light cameras are popping up all over Florida.  Depending on your location in the State may determine if the citation is lawful.  Specifically, the 5th District Court of Appeals (Orange, Seminole and surrounding counties) held that the City of Orlando does not have the specific authority under Florida Statute to impose such penalties.  Specifically, the 5th DCA held that the imposition of additional penalties, over and above those already imposed by Florida’s legislature, do not fall within the specific authority granted to municipalities by Florida’s Constitution.

Conversely, the 3rd District Court of Appeals (Miami-Dade and Monroe counties) held that City of Aventura does have the authority to impose penalties based on red light camera infractions.  The 3rd DCA held that such penalties do not invalidate the legislative intent behind the uniform traffic laws and specifications set out by Florida’s Department of Transportation.

The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments in November and will presumably render a decision early in 2014 regarding the lawfulness of the red light citations.  What does this mean for people who get these tickets in the meantime?  First and foremost, there are valid and lawful ways to challenge these citations.  Upon notice of one of these citations, immediately contact an experienced attorney in your area.  Remember that you MUST decide within thirty days whether you are going to challenge the ticket or pay the fine.

Contact your friends at Cohen Battisti for a free consultation and an explanation of your rights.

Article written by Paul Zeniewicz, Esquire

paul t Zeniewicz esquire orlando lawyer cohen battisti attorneys at law

Citizens Changes Underwriting Guidelines to Include Sinkhole Properties

sinkhole, florida, cohen battisti, orlando attorney, florida sinkhole

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has recommenced issuing policies on homes with prior sinkhole claims.  The new changes to Citizens’ underwriting guidelines, approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, now allow policies for properties that have had repairs from prior sinkhole damage.

The underwriting rules require that homeowners be able to prove, with documentation and photographs, that the sinkhole damage on their property has been repaired pursuant to recommendations from approved engineers.  Homeowners who can show that their sinkhole damage has been partially repaired, or repaired using alternative methods can also still be covered under the new policies for some perils, but the new policies may not include coverage for a sinkhole in Florida.

Sinkholes form when limestone dissolves bedrock over time, and the surface land collapses.  Depending on the circumstances, they can be filled with dirt, sand or concrete to support the foundation of a home.  At one time, all Florida homeowner policies were required to have sinkhole coverage, but after years of insurance companies complaining that many sinkhole claims were fraudulent, and sinkhole claims tripling from 2006-2010, the Florida legislature passed a law limiting sinkhole coverage in 2011.

The new insurance coverage availability with Citizens, which went into effect on Oct. 31, is especially significant in Pasco and Hernando Counties, where real estate sales and property values sank in part because an estimated 20,000 properties were not insurable due to sinkhole risk.  Homeowners with prior sinkhole claims did not qualify for property or storm coverage, even if the sinkhole damage was repaired.

Now, homeowners and potential buyers in the Tampa-area counties of Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough and Pinellas, known collectively as “Sinkhole Alley”, can apply for mortgages that require insurance, when they previously would not qualify due to sinkhole damage.

The announcement for Citizens’ underwriting changes regarding sinkhole properties was made in New Port Richey, Fl. at a Nov. 20 meeting held by the Florida Association for Insurance Reform (FAIR) and the Pasco County and Hernando County Realtors.  In the week before the announcement, two homes in Dunedin, located in Pinellas County, were swallowed by a 90-foot wide sinkhole, and residents in several nearby homes were evacuated until the sinkhole was determined to be stable enough to be filled.

Adult Literacy Spelling Bee

Author George R.R. Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one.”  While that is a powerful statement, did you know that only one in every five Central Florida adults reads at or below the fifth grade level?  This is exactly what the Adult Literacy League is trying to change.  This volunteer and donation based organization is attempting to change the world of those who have trouble reading “one page at a time.”

On October 24, 2013, The Adult Literacy League held an event they called “Lawyers for Literacy Spelling Bee” at the Doubletree by Hilton in Downtown Orlando.  In this event was Cohen Battisti, Attorneys at Law’s own Michael Grossman!  Not only did he do a fantastic job, but he was also very glad to be a part of such event.  I had the chance to interview Mr. Grossman about the spelling bee.

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CB:  What do you think about the Adult Literacy League?

Michael Grossman: It’s really an amazing program being run by amazing people.  Literacy is such an important skill, whether you’re looking for work, reading labels on food at the grocery store, or trying to read a bedtime story to your child.  It’s easy to take for granted how important and necessary reading is in our day-to-day lives.  For adults who are illiterate, whether because English is not their first language or they did not have the benefit of an early education, the Adult Literacy League is life-changing.  I have the highest degree of respect for their volunteers and staff, this is an extremely noble cause that has a profound impact on our communities.

CB: How did you feel about being a part of the event?

Michael Grossman:  It was an honor, but to be completely honest, also a little nerve-racking.  When the Young Lawyers Section of the Orlando Bar Association contacted me the day before the event due to a last-minute cancellation, I was happy to fill-in but really nervous.  After all, the other competitors had over a month to study the list of words to be used while I didn’t even recognize about 10% of the words on the list!  Fortunately, the structure of the spelling bee meant I would not be alone, and was assigned a partner, Terri Spoon.  Terri was an amazing speller and instrumental in our success.

CB: Did you struggle at any point, and what was the hardest word they had you spell?

Michael Grossman:  The partnership between myself and Terri was really clutch.  She was a tremendous help for any words with which I was struggling.  I can’t remember all the words they gave us, but a couple tough ones that come to mind are vicissitude, precocious, and peccadillo.

CB: What place did you come in?

Michael Grossman:  Winner, winner chicken dinner, we came in first place!

CB: Is this something that you would do again if you had the opportunity?

Michael Grossman:  Without question.  It was a fantastic event, Judge LeBlanc was an affable and charismatic MC, and everyone really had a great time helping a worthy cause.

 

It was great to have someone from Cohen Battiti, Attorneys at Law not only at the event, but to take first place in it!  Keep that in mind the next time you are in need of legal attention. 

At Cohen Battisti, initial consultations are always free and confidential.  We have a very experience group of attorneys and legal staff ready to assist you with your needs!  Call Cohen Battisti, Attorneys at Law today at 407-478-4878, or go to www.CohenBattisti.com.  Remember, at Cohen Battisti, “It’s About Justice!”

 

The Florida Restoration Symposium

If you want to know your legal rights as a restoration contractor and learn how you can earn more money and collect what’s owed to you from insurance companies, this is the event for you. Plus, you’ll get live Q&A time with Harvey Cohen, an attorney who focuses in insurance claims.
 
If you want to know how insurance adjusters think and how they differentiate the restoration contractors they prefer to do business with, this event is for you. Plus, you’ll get live Q&A time with Peter Crosa, a nationally-known insurance claims marketing expert, and learn exactly how to approach adjusters, network with them and get them to use your company.
 
If you want to know how to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and optimize your website to come up on top of the search engines when your potential clients need your services, this event is for you. A complete breakdown of what a website needs to work better will be presented.
 
This will be a fantastic seminar, designed specifically for disaster restoration business owners.

Florida Restoration Symposium
Location: 
Westin Hotel
400 Corporate Drive
Ft Lauderdale, FL 33334
Date: 
Friday
August 23, 2013
8 AM to 5 PM
 
Price:
$249
Receive IICRC credit for attending
                                       Harvey Teaching Class  TBU workshop in work mode 
Cohen Battisti, Attorneys at Law are invited speakers.