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

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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.

Florida Insurance Commissioner: Individual Insurance Rates to Rise 30 to 40 Percent Next Year

Floridians could face substantial increases if they buy health insurance through the state’s new exchange under Obamacare next year.

According to a report from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation issued last week, insurance premiums will increase 5 to 20 percent for small businesses and 30 to 40 percent for individual plans, on average.

Starting in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans must have insurance coverage or face paying penalties of either $95 or 1 percent of adjusted gross income, whichever is higher. Individuals purchasing their own insurance will have options under a four-tier system from state exchanges with major insurance companies. Open enrollment begins on Oct. 1 with coverage taking effect Jan. 1.

Eleven health insurance carriers have entered the state’s exchange-based program for individual insurance in all 67 of Florida’s counties.  Carriers will offer at least basic benefits that cover everyone who applies, and can no longer deny applicants with pre-existing medical conditions. These changes are the thrust for the increase to premiums, according to Kevin McCarty, Florida Insurance Commissioner. There are also limits on how age affects premiums for older patients, a cap on deductibles and new comprehensive benefits plans.

Article written by Cohen Battisti, Attorneys at Law

Press Release – The Time to Organize is Now!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 27, 2013

House Bill 909 (2013) may affect home owners and Florida restoration contractors

The time to act is now! Florida’s restoration industry will unite against HB 909 (2013)

Orlando, Florida, February 27, 2013 – Cohen Battisti Attorneys is joining with the restoration industry and Florida Justice Associations in an attempt to defeat HB 909 (2013). This bill would prohibit assignments under homeowner’s policies. This would be a major blow to the industry and completely give all the power back to the insurance companies. For instance, a restoration company will no longer be protected against insurance companies for jobs that have been performed without being paid up-front. No restoration company will want to do these jobs for free because without an assignment of benefits restorers have no protection. Therefore, if a hurricane were to hit the state of Florida, all the homes that are damaged will go un-repaired until restoration companies receive payment upfront. After that, the damage will be so extensive, insurance companies will deny claims and all the homeowners in Florida will be in a much worse position.

The time to organize is now! Homeowners and the restoration industry should contact their local representatives and tell them how this bill will negatively affect their businesses and homes.

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx

For more information about House Bill 909 (2013) please contact Cohen Battisti Attorneys at (407) 478-4878.

Contact Information: 

Carol M. Palacio

Carol@CohenBattisti.com
Cohen Battisti Attorneys at Law
1211 Orange Avenue Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 478-4878
www.CohenBattisti.com

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The Truth About Insurance Companies

A True Story:

Back in 2006, a friend of mine and his wife were moving to Florida from the Midwest, and decided to purchase a home in Central Florida.  To their surprise, although a number of carriers offered coverage, only one was willing to offer coverage to include hurricane damage.  When he asked his insurance agent, “Why won’t anybody offer me hurricane coverage in Florida?” the response he received was, “Simple; because there’s hurricanes in Florida.”

Although humorous, this anecdote is representative of the powerlessness many homeowners feel in both purchasing insurance and reporting covered losses.  On one hand, residential insurance is a social institution, a public necessity that anyone who purchases a home through a mortgage must obtain.  There is no choice.  On the other hand, insurance companies are profit-driven businesses, not public organizations, and as such their ultimate loyalty lies with stockholders, not policyholders. 

Insurer Advantage:

Likewise, the insurance policies themselves are equally dictatorial.  The contract terms are non-negotiable.  The pricing for various coverage’s are non-negotiable.  The decision by insurance companies to admit coverage, deny coverage, or issue payment in full for repair work is absolute (outside of litigation).  The contract itself, a voluminous document riddled with legal jargon and often vague meanings even experienced attorneys dispute, is virtually incomprehensible to homeowners.  And to exaggerate the already-uneven playing field homeowners’ face, private insurance companies are fundamentally driven by profit incentives, whereby the less homeowners are paid, the more the company benefits.

So if an insurance company decides to deny or underpay a homeowner’s claim, what are their options?  In most states, their only choices are to hire an attorney or public adjuster who will work on a percentage contingency basis (where the attorney takes a percentage of any amount the homeowner recovers), or hire an attorney who bills based on their hourly rate; either way, the homeowner will likely sacrifice thousands of dollars in the hopes they might recover insurance benefits which they should have provided already.  The general result is, if a smaller claim is either denied or underpaid, the homeowner has no practical way to recover what they’re owed or otherwise contest the insurance company’s decision.

Sunshine State Levels Playfield:

Fortunately, in my home state of Florida, the legislature has provided homeowners with a few mechanisms which help even the playing field between homeowners and insurance companies.  One of the most significant of these is Florida’s “fee-shifting” statute.  Under Florida Statute Section 627.428, if a homeowner recovers money from their insurance company for a wrongfully underpaid or denied claim, there are entitled to have their attorney’s fees and costs paid in addition to any amount they recover for their loss.  Such laws are essential to empowering homeowners to dispute a wrongly denied or underpaid claim, and stand up for their contractual rights.  As such, our firm strongly encourages other states to join Florida in enacting fee-shifting statutes to help empower homeowners to have their voices heard by the insurance industry.

Providing homeowners with litigation fees and costs when they recover against an insurer is empowering in multiple ways. Homeowners have the opportunity to obtain top-notch legal representation without having to sacrifice benefits they’re properly owed.

Legislative Action Helps Close the Gap:

Likewise, insurance companies have an incentive to consider their coverage decisions a little more thoroughly, with the knowledge that improper payment or denial could result in paying additional thousands of dollars in the homeowner’s legal costs and fees.  And, of course, from a Plaintiff attorney’s perspective, there is nothing that makes us happier than being able to recover the full amount our clients are owed without having to take a penny of their actual benefits.

In sum, although the playing field between insurers and homeowners is far from level, states that choose to adopt similar “fee-shifting” laws are providing an essential tool for homeowners to defend themselves, their homes, and their families from insurance companies who otherwise have insurmountable money and resources at their disposal.  In a time when homeowners insurance is not merely a product to be purchased at leisure, but an essential, necessary, and mandatory institution of our society, “fee-shifting” laws may be the most effective path to rectify the clear power imbalance between insurers and homeowners.

By attorney Michael Grossman

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