Interesting Story on Lawyer and Medical Referral Services
State leaders probing accident referral services like 411 Pain
Fraud investigators worry about possible criminal activity
When Jazzmil Rodriguez was in a car accident in Deltona last summer, she remembered a familiar jingle from television and radio commercials. It went something like, "1-800-411-PAIN."
A phone number and a jingle in one. How easy, she thought.
"I should have never called them," she said now. When she called 1-800-411 PAIN (we’ll just call it 411 Pain), she assumed she was calling a lawyer referral service. She was referred to an attorney, but she was sent directly to Florida Injury, a pain clinic, where a paralegal, not an attorney, met her.
She said she was told by both the attorney and the clinic to return for daily treatments for ten days and, after that, three to four times a week.
"I’m more frustrated because I was led to believe they were going to help me, and now I have more debt,” Rodriguez said.
She has more debt because the treatment at Florida Injury exhausted her $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) in just over two months. PIP is required in every auto insurance policy in Florida.
By the time her coverage was exhausted, the law firm that 411 Pain referred her to told Rodriguez she had no case. The other driver had no bodily injury coverage that she could sue for.
"They waited until I wracked up almost $15,000 in chiropractor treatment," Rodriguez said.
Now she’s left $5,000 in the hole to foot the rest of her medical bills. Her story sounds familiar to Maria and Jessica Velez of Kissimmee. They called 411 Pain after an accident, too. They, too, were referred to a lawyer, but sent directly to Florida Injury.
"They told me I had to be there for three to four months before I could start a case," said Maria Velez.
The women, however, stopped going when they felt better. Jessica said her attorney urged to continue treatment.
"If I wanted to continue the case I had to go to the therapy for four months, even if I was feeling better," she recalls the lawyer telling her.
Local 6 has been investigating the relationships between the lawyers, the pain clinics, and the referral services.
State business records reveal a very clear relationship between Robert Lewin, who runs 411 Pain, and Kimberly Russo, who runs Florida Injury. Their names not only appear on their own businesses, but on each other’s as well.
That might explain why all the women were sent to Florida Injury after calling 411 Pain.
Local 6 found a 411 Pain van parked at the Orlando headquarters of Florida Injury, and followed the van as it seemingly transported individuals from the clinic to homes throughout the area.
No one from Florida Injury or 411 Pain responded to inquiries about their business practices. An attorney representing Florida Injury did explain that 411 Pain is a business that sells off territories, like franchises, to medical clinics.
Consequently, when an accident victim calls the 411 Pain lawyer referral service, that call essentially goes to a pain clinic hotline.
"Florida consumers deserve better than this," said the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
He’s called for the Florida Bar to take action against referral services like Ask Gary and 411 Pain that don't disclose their for profit relationships with lawyers and clinics.
"I think they should be banned," he said. "Those of us who are responsible for getting to the bottom of insurance fraud are going to leave no stone unturned to find out anywhere the scoundrels exist, and you can assume they exist everywhere. And we’re going to find them."
Atwater is not alone in his concerns. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has launched an investigation into 411 Pain.
"Our office reviews all the complaints and determines whether to open an investigation," says Jenn Meale, of the Attorney General’s office. "And we’re currently investigating 411 Pain for violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act."
That’s exactly what Rodriguez has suspected about the referral service.