Welcome to First off, let's kill all the lawyers that off misquoted Shakespearean phrase from the 1500s. But as many people will still say today, it's probably not a bad start. I'm David Halford. And I've been practicing law for about 30 years here in South Florida. And the goal behind this broadcast is to bring lawyers in that maybe shouldn't be on that kill list and let you meet some of the local lawyers in this town. Talk about what they do talk about some trending things in law, and just overall kind of educate on on various aspects. My guest today pretty easy one, if you look at the name of the law firm, it's Karen Heffernan. Well, he's care and I'm Heffernan, so that that puts the law firm together, but good friend of mine, I've known mark my entire legal career since we went to law school together. But Mark, welcome. Thanks, Dave. And actually, when you said 30 years practicing our graduation was about 30 years ago this weekend. So good lord, or something like that? It does. It does. So let's, let's talk a little bit about you. What was your journey to get into law? I mean, what was what was the decision between, you know, for law school, and then kind of how did it go from there, like, candidly, I think I was too dumb to do anything else. So stumbled into law school, I really had no direction when I went to law school. And thankfully, my brother in law was a practicing lawyer in Miami. And he had a workers compensation and Personal Injury firm. And he was kind enough to give me a job, both in law school and coming out of law school. So I worked there for a while and went out on my own. Shortly thereafter, I opened up my practice in 1997. And was on my own and then you and I joined up probably almost about probably almost about 10 years ago. Yeah, yeah. Which was, which is an interesting story. Mark, and I had stayed in touch since law school. But then mark had a very interesting case of a guy who broke his neck and in a world Indoor Football League. And so given my background, you know, sort of asked me to help with that case, and things went very well. And yeah, and I think at the same time, we were probably working on that negligent security case. I don't know which one came first. But we had the negligent security case as well. And it worked on both those cases. And the next thing I knew we were part of, yeah, no, it worked. Worked out. Well. Very similar, I think in in in background and everything else. Oddly enough, you know, you've been married a long time. It's now my 32nd wedding anniversary today. How long? Yep. But you know, three kids and and sort of that stability of of life, which I think is important. 100%? All right. So let's, let's talk about one of the things obviously, that we do in our practice between you and I 1000s and 1000s of automobile cases, right. Right now, Florida is on the verge of probably the most sweeping changes in in automobile insurance law in the last 50 years. So, Senate Bill 54 has passed the House and the Senate is now just waiting for the governor signature. But But let's talk about that a little bit, because we hear the phrases a lot. So Florida, up until maybe this this January, something governor signs it, it's been a no fault state. So what does that mean? Sure. What What is the no fault portion of it mean?
Yeah. In other words, here's
the law in Florida, because because it is unique. I think Florida is only one of a handful of states, that actually still has no fault. I believe it's one of two and the backward the backward ation of the system is it I guess it is what it says no fault. So in Florida, you were and still are currently until the governor signs the law, right responsible for payment of your own medical bills. So if you're in an accident, and the accident is not your fault, your insurance company knows as your P IP carrier, your no fault carrier will pay 80% of your medical bills up to $10,000. And with that PIP requirement, I think it's twofold. Right? So Florida, I think, again, was one of only two states that doesn't require a driver to have bodily injury liability coverage in effect. So all you need in order to drive a car in Florida is the minimum requirements of P IP, which is for payment of your own medical bills, and to replace someone else's car property damage of $10,000. Even that is so outdated, because right now you're talking about a fender bender in Florida on any car is going to exceed $10,000. So both were one was outdated, the system itself and then the minimum requirements were likewise outdated. Yeah. Which is which is bizarre when you look at it because those minimum requirements, I think were put in place in 1972. So you haven't right, you haven't changed those numbers since since 1972. Insane. So so the odd thing is and we see a lot in our practice because people come in and they said I don't know I'm fully insured, right? But so if I understand what you're saying to be fully insured in Florida now, you don't have to have any insurance that covers you if you cause an accident. That's That's correct. You just have to have coverage to, to pay for the damage to somebody else's car, but not the damage that you may have caused that other person. Right? So you you get you seriously hurt somebody right? You're still fully insured by the laws of Florida. Correct. And but you have to have no insurance that protects you
That's a little bizarre. So let's talk about this change. Because like I said, probably the biggest change in 50 years in this law, as it has now passed the House, the Senate, what is the law going to be in Florida to be insured now? Sure. So the law will now require you to carry 2550 we use those numbers, right, so 25,000 per person 50,000, in total, for bodily injury liability coverage. So now, if you cause an accident, you are going to be responsible for paying the person that you injured, you're going to have to have a minimum of 25,000 bodily injury liability coverage to compensate that one person. And if there's three people in the car for people, they would get a combined 50,000. So you're forcing the drivers to now carry bodily injury liability insurance to compensate the injured party, it's also going to shift the payment of the medical bills. So the payment of the medical bills were assumed to be paid in the old system, by your own carrier under that tip. Now, the person who is injured will either have his health insurance, pay those medical bills, you can purchase the med pay policy, you can you can purchase that when you purchase your auto coverage. So med pay can pay your medical bills, or you will pay it from a settlement. Okay, so your medical bills will be paid in one of three ways. In the event that you're involved in an accident now, and I saw in a lot of the debate, the issues being raised by the House and the Senate talked about with the P IP skin scheme, being you know, your medical bills, you know that $10,000 being covered that that was an area that was ripe for fraud, right. And I think we've seen a lot of that with staged accidents and and some of those lawyers that should be on that list to be killed, you know that, that have to have deals with accident clinics and everything else, because it was it was almost an automatic. Here's $10,000, right, if I got into a little minor fender bender, so that, to me is the most important part of this change. One having a lot the bodily injury liability coverage, I think is great. And increasing the limits. Also for property damage is going to be helpful. But the most important part, I think, which was hurt, it hurts you and I and it hurts people that are legitimately injured, because you're listening to accidents 24, seven from these accident clinics, right. And by the way, these accident clinics aren't just advertising. And there are some good clinics, right? There are some doctors that are in this to actually treat and help people and make them better. But there are a number of clinics that have exploited the P IP system to the max. And they have used runners. They do everything that lawyers aren't supposed to do. Right. So they contact clients, they get the police report, they offer people money to come treated their clinic. So when you and I walk into a courtroom with an auto case, jurors may have been involved in an accident before and have been illegally contacted illegally recruited paid money to come to a clinic. So you and I are always walking in with a little bit. We're behind walking in. Because people are looking at us like Well, how do we know you're not associated with one of those clinics? How do we know that this is real? So I think getting rid of that will be terrific. And it should cut down on a lot of fraud because you had a lot of people that might have been involved in a minor fender bender that were not injured, got a call from a clinic country with us, we'll pay you some money. Right? Because how many times have you had a client come into your office and say I heard I'm entitled to $10,000? Oh, sure, for my accident, right. They're confusing the tip benefits that the doctor is going to get with money that they're entitled to get. So let's go it's going to be very telling to see how that changes the landscape. And are we going to see a decrease in some of these advertising, you know, campaigns that are going, you know, have been an accident call those calls calls? I think so because they depend on the cash flow to fund that advertising. Right. And if their client the cash flow, isn't there from from the P IP insurance, those cases aren't going to be as valuable to them as they have been. And actually, we still need the governor to sign the bill. Right. We're still waiting for governor design it hopefully he will, too. They're on the way there. You know, I had I had read one of the stats that they were relying on the the insurance industry cited his reason for keeping the P IP scheme in place. And they were saying that I think 42 or 43% of the population or the drivers would see an increase in their rates. Does that mean 58% or 59% are going to see a decrease well, that their rates that they're not even talking about.
That's going to be the big question because I've seen and the estimates are that somewhere between 35 to 45% of the drivers don't carry that At least that 2550. Okay. And so they're saying that population, you would only make sense? Well, you're absolutely have to see an increase. But the question is then people that have carried, and I've carried those limits you carry those well above those for all these years, is it going to now decrease for us? It should. Right. I mean, that the, the cited statistic had been the one that we and I just, you and I just discussed a 41 or 42%, that we're going to see an increase. I'm curious to see the 58. That should be receiving a decrease, right that, of course, if the insurance industry isn't mentioning it that leads me to believe that yes, in fact, 58%, we'll probably see a decrease. Yeah, you want to bet on that? Right. Our insurance bills are not going down. Okay. I go from they'll figure out a way I can promise you. That's, that's the other concern that I've seen is is so unfortunately, we live in a state right now, where about one in five drivers don't carry any insurance, despite what the law says. Right. So I think some of the concern with this was, well, we've already got one in five, and now you're going to make it more expensive for them. Are we going to see less, more drivers just not carry insurance?
You know, David, that's, that's, um,
that's a troubling question. And because yes, there are people that are out there struggling financially that do everything they can to hold on to a car, and now you're saddling them with a burden of perhaps an additional insurance cost, but I think it's the problem is really twofold. With the insurance one, there is no enforceability. Right. So how many times if, again, we've had people come into our office, we get a police report, insurance canceled insurance suspended. So a lot of times people will purchase that insurance policy in order to get the registration, make one payment on it? And then the insurance lapses, right. So yes, they are driving around without insurance, and perhaps their license will be suspended if they get pulled over. But there is no immediate enforcement. There's no mechanism by which the state actually enforces and tracks down people that are driving uninsured. So I think part of what needs to happen is yes, the first step is changing from the no fault system to the to mandatory bodily injury liability system. But to we have to do something about enforceability. I mean, you can't just make one payment on your insurance, get your registration, and then boom, that's it. Now you're uninsured again, because you're going to be in this vicious cycle of again, nobody having insurance, right. And we see save a lot, not just obviously, you have to have that to get registered. And you're right, there's no follow up on that. There's no annual the state doesn't say, you're required to send us proof of insurance. You had it when you registered the vehicle. And that's all that matters, right. You also see that a lot of time with leased vehicles, because the the companies that leased them require you to carry 100 300 most times. problem with that, again, they do it they lease the car, then there's no enforceability. To follow up to say, Are you maintaining that insurance on the vehicle? Right, I think with the lease, they might though, don't they have some some form of force place coverage? Once you get a letter, if you've got a leased vehicle that hey, we we received notice that your insurance is lapse, or they only going to put on comprehensive and collision? Or who knows? I don't know. I mean, they do that. Look, mortgage companies were very strong about that mortgage guys will do that, and put it in place and say, you know, because that's part of the contract, and it might be in the lease, part of contract says you have to show proof of insurance, right. But they're listed. And I know, I think the automobile carrier carriers are also listed. But again, I don't know if it's enforced, right? Because if it lapses, they're supposed to be listed on that policy, so they get notification.
So the big thing is, you know, what's, what's going to happen with that? Let's talk a little bit about something you talked about this morning, right? traffic. One of it's one of the great, you know, favorable byproducts of the pandemic was traffic decreased dramatically. The only favorable thing about the pandemic was traffic. The I remember, I was making it to the office, you know, from avatar to brick wall. I was making it in 1520 minutes, no traffic, I was one of the, you know, few cars on the road, this morning gridlock. Yeah, well, it's, it's, it's back, it's back.
So let's just talk about the averages. And How's this? If this changes, how's that going to affect them? You know, are you going to be required to go out and get that insurance now or, again, there's the there's the enforceability, right, I own my car, let's say I just carry PIP Now, obviously, that's not going to be sold anymore, right. Is it going to be how is the state going to require me to make sure that I've got that new insurance? You know, I don't know. I think we'll have to wait for the governor to sign the bill. And they should be there should be a date of enforceability on there. Right. And it doesn't it won't apply retroactively No. effect forward, usually October 1, right. Well, if he signs it, the law will go into place January 1. Okay, so well, we'll go into place January 1, so effective January 1. I think all those policies will then have to be amended I suspect to comply with the new law. So if you've got an old policy is set to expire in February or March, your policy would have to be amended to add bodily injury liability coverage and drop perhaps p IP coverage. Right. So the question is, is, is that something that's somehow going to be enforceable? I'm assuming I'm assuming the insurance companies are gonna have to notify you, right? Oh, by the way, that coverage doesn't exist anymore. Right. Here's the alternative. He was the alternative. Correct. But But whether that gets registered somehow by the state to be enforced? What's the same now? Right. So we often write when we get a police report, and we have a client come to our office who's involved in an accident. And on the police report, there's no insurance listed. We often write to the state of Florida and their their databases. candidly, you know, Department of Highway Safety and motor vehicles is really terrible. You know, we get insurance information for three years in the past, which I find hard to believe. I don't know how they're that it's far back. So I can't remember the last time we wrote to them and actually gotten valuable information back.
Oh, I don't think I ever
know this person does have insurance. And here's with who he has insurance greatly. It's, it's terrible. Yeah. I mean, we do the due diligence to try to find that. But yeah, I don't think I've ever had had a response that says, Yeah, here we go here. Yeah, we got in here. So if they don't have the information, or at least are providing, obviously they don't have it, because they're not providing it to us when we requested. That's where that's where it has to start. They have to get that information, and then then do something with it to notify people, we've received information that your policy has lapsed, if you don't get coverage right away. x y&z can happen to you, including suspension of your driving privileges, when i think i think that's going to be the biggest thing, because until there's some teeth in there, and people do start getting their license suspended for some period of time. It's a step in the right direction, for sure. But and then at some point, does it just make more sense for people to say, you know, what, between what I have to pay for my car, gas, registration, insurance, maintenance? Am I better off taking an Uber every day to work? I don't have to worry about parking, I don't have to worry about all those incidental expenses. I don't have the stress. You know what, maybe we'll just take an Uber everyday. And I think you're starting to see that. I mean, again, at least before the pandemic, and now I think you'll obviously see Uber and all of that coming back. But but the mindset of that generation is, what do I need to own a car? Correct. I mean, I have a car, pick me up, take me wherever I want, right. And I don't have any of the headache of it. And it's cheaper, right? It might be cheaper, depending obviously, on how far you live and what kind of car you drive. But it might be cheaper. And if you've got a couple of tickets on your license or had your license, suspended insurance is going to be expensive for you. So you might just say, forget it, it's not worth it. And this is not a paid endorsement for Uber or Lyft, or any any mode of public transportation. But I think what you've seen coming out of the pandemic is obviously car sales are through the roof, right. And I think people kind of want to drive their own car, or at least being an Uber by themselves. I don't think they want to be in public transportation if they can avoid it. Right. Which is, which is interesting, because again, a lot of the things with a pandemic, you see car sales for the roof, boat sales, people want a vehicle somehow to get outside of their home, and still be safe, correct? You know, I mean, I can sit my own car, I can drive and clear my head and knees and go from there. So well, interesting. So we see that shift. You know, it'll be interesting. And I think to follow, are we going to see a decrease for the people that have already carried those limits, and done the right thing and protected themselves? Or are we going to see the same? Yeah, like you said, I, I can't recall ever getting a decrease from my insurance carrier ever. Right? So at least give me one initially, let me let me get one at least the first time and then raise my rates. Let me for once again, decrease. But you're right. It'll be interesting to see what happens. We probably won't know for a couple years. But step one is getting it signed. I think it makes sense. It does make sense for sure. I think you're going to reduce the number of claims. For sure. Yeah, I it certainly I think makes sense. Because, again, if it's followed, and we don't see the number of totally uninsured people increase, you know, but if it's followed, yeah, there's coverage for people. In other words, you now have to be more accountable, you cause an accident, right? You're being accountable, saying, Okay, I'm providing these benefits, which again, in the vast majority of cases, hopefully should be adequate. You know, obviously, some it's not if you have a devastating injury or anything else. It's going to be a whole different animal. But but having people in short, I think is a benefit. And like we said it's twofold. It's one having that person insured but to you're cutting down the person that might not be injured, that has now been solicited, right to go to a clinic and start treating for the benefit of the clinic, and perhaps an illegal kickback. I'll use the word kickback or contribution to the alleged injured party. So just getting rid of that segment of the population getting rid of those cases has to be a tremendous benefit to the insurance carriers to the insurance companies. And that's and that's what most of the politicians have said, because because of the fraud, and and it is been a pretty rampant thing. Yeah. And and you're right, it's easy to see, you know, and it's, you know, if you go it's, you know, you sit in your doctor's office, you know, for half hour before seeing the dog, right, I've got TV on there. Yep. It's amazing the amount of clinics and everything else that are all advertising. And with with misleading commercials, since they're not regulated by the Florida Bar, right, the commercials tend to be misleading, and you may be entitled to $10,000. In benefits. How many times have you heard that? Right? You are not entitled to $10,000 in benefits, your doctor is going to be entitled to $10,000 you're not entitled to a penny of it.
Yeah. But but they all think but they think, right? Well, you pick them up? And so yeah, well, we'll see that eliminated. And, and it was interesting, because I went back and I looked at the history of the whole p IP. And it was actually two professors in a Harvard Law Review. And the theory at the time, was that it would, it would decrease all of the claims because everybody had to have their own insurance. Okay. Which again, in theory sounds right. Except, you're now not, you're still having no responsibility for for what you've caught. Correct. So, so And again, it's just antiquated. I mean, it's a that goes back into the early 70s. Or when they started this. So the no fault, I think, when it was in 1982, I think was it amended in 82? I think it actually started 70s. But I think it was amended in 82. And yeah, I mean, we we haven't seen any significant change is a lot more about that those limits have been in place since at least 1982. Right? Those those limits of $10,000 for your own medical bills. And for property damage. Since 1982. Quite you tell me medical bills and expenses have gone up since 1981. Er, visit, you know, a couple of CAT scans in your visit, we've seen bills 40 $50,000 for a one day ER visit, right? So what are you accomplishing with $10,000? A tip absolutely nothing. Right. So now the question though becomes with hospitals, everything else, you know, what are they going to do when people don't have health insurance? Right. You know, I mean, is this now going to become more of a burden on on Jackson and everything else? Because, unfortunately, we've still got a lot of people don't have health insurance in this country? No, that's true. And I know the hospital lobby really was in favor of keeping the VIP system the way it was, because for them the reimbursement rate on the VIP claims was much greater than it was on some other health insurance. Well, yeah, I look at it at least they offered that ER visit, you know, initially when they came in, so they could do the scans and all that. So it'll be interesting seeing how that affects, right. Alright, so let's let's talk about, let's talk about your practice. You talked about getting into workers comp and pie. And that's what you've done your entire career. Well, yeah, that's how we started, I actually didn't do much of the worker's comp when I was working with, with my brother in law, I was doing the personal injury, they had a really nice personal injury firm, that I was able to step into a couple of his partners had left. So I was able to step in and had a lot of active cases. And I worked there. From 19. I started actually in law school. So probably started like in 1989, until I went out on my own in 1997. And when I went out on my own, again, started with just the auto cases, did some workers comp and then slowly transitioned into some more personal injury stuff, that negligence security stuff in the medical malpractice. So what gives you an it's easy, and we can all talk about all this the grind of practicing lawyers, but what gives you satisfaction in practicing law? I don't think it's a particular case. I think it's a it's a particular outcome for a particular client. So we do have occasions, you and I have had the occasion, right where you have been able to change someone's life. Unfortunately, those are cases where money is probably not going to fix the situation. Right? you've you've dealt with some devastating injuries. so short, short, and you've dealt with you have dealt with an injury with tragically injured brain injury to a young gal. So while you weren't able to bring her back to what she was like before, you know, you did everything possible to make her life going forward better, and without your help. She wouldn't be as well off as she is today. Right? 100% You and I had the same experience with our negligent security case. Granted, our client was a paraplegic, and he will never be able to live the life that he was living before. But we did everything possible to ensure that his life going forward was as good as it could be. And without our help, he wouldn't have as good a life as he has now. So those are the cases where Where you feel good at the end of the day, you feel sad for the person that's gone through the tragedy, because they're never gonna be able to get their life back. But you've done everything possible to give them the best possible life going forward. Well stated, and I think that is that is the joy in seeing what you've been able to do. And again, in the system we have, it's a compensation system, but you've given them the best opportunity and we see clients come back who are now Yeah, he's, he's, he's paraplegic, but but he's gotten businesses he's thriving. He's, you know, he's adapted in a situation where, in both the cases you've referenced, if we weren't able to do those things, I don't know if either one of them would still be alive today. Probably not. Right? Because I remember the one client that we're discussing the negligent security case, in this in the condition that we I'm gonna say the condition we found him. I remember when I first went to meet him, the physical condition that he was in his living conditions, they were horrible. I mean, they were somebody he was, he was living a life that he was destined for death. powerful stuff, and that's what makes Mark and I continue to go to the office every day and and we'll, we'll sit and watch with everybody else as these law, swimming, the governor signs it. That's going to be the law in Florida and big, big changes in automobile law. For the first time in a long time in Florida, but listen, been a pleasure. I think I'll see you at the office. But we'll be back next week. And we'll talk more about different aspects of law and and hopefully we've gotten more care off the, you know, first off, let's kill all the lawyers. So yes, have a great week, and we'll see you soon. Thank you, David.
Attorney David Heffernan
Kaire & Heffernan, LLC