State Farm filed a federal lawsuit in Florida last week against the founder of the 1-800-ASK-GARY accident referral service, accusing the company of "a massive fraud scheme."
The insurance company accuses Gary Kompothecras of fraud by taking advantage of no-fault insurance benefits that
often cover medical expenses for auto accident victims. State Farm says Kompthecras used 1-800-ASK-GARY to lure accident victims to his clinics, a violation of Florida law. The outcome of the case could affect the company's operations in Minnesota.
A lawyer for the referral service described State Farm's lawsuit as an "absurd action."
1-800-ASK -GARY is familiar to Minnesotans from its heavy advertising on buses, billboards, radio and television. The company also operates in Florida and Kentucky, which also have no-fault insurance laws. When someone is in a car accident, they can call 1-800-ASK-GARY and the company will refer accident victims to a chiropractor and often to a personal injury lawyer.
The lawsuit alleges the company never referred a patient to any health care providers other than Physicians Group in Florida. An attorney from Kentucky who is part of the referral network provided a sworn affidavit "confirming that Kompothecras required [personal injury] attorneys who received referrals from ASK GARY to refer their clients to Kompothecras-owned clinic for treatment."
State Farm is asking for a judgment declaring all outstanding claims between the insurance company and Physicians Group to be dissolved.
Kompothecras registered his company, Physicians Group, LLC, with Minnesota in 2007. Minnesota, like Florida, is also a no-fault state, which means people involved in a car accident in Minnesota are eligible for $20,000 in personal injury protection without having to go to court to determine who was at fault.
"The lawsuit filed by State Farm is a frivolous and malicious suit that has no merit and will be dismissed by the Court," Gregory Zitani, an attorney for Physicians Group, said in a statement. "This suit is a desperate act by State Farm, one of the largest and most profitable insurance companies, who owes Physicians Group over $9 million by its failure to pay over 1000 claims for medical costs incurred by its policy holders."
Zitani said some of State Farm's claims are relevant only to provisions of Florida law.
"Minnesota has its own rules with which Physicians Group and ASK GARY advertising are required to comply," Zitiani said. "With the assistance of local counsel, all such Minnesota laws are complied with by Physicians Group and ASK GARY."
Mark Kulda of the Minnesota Insurance Federation, a trade association that represents insurance companies, said when calling referral services like 1-800-ASK-GARY they may not be getting an unbiased referral.
"It's important to note that you may not be getting the referral that is most beneficial to you. You may be getting a referral that is most beneficial to that referral service," Kulda said. "No-Fault is set up so that it is easy to get medical care from a doctor you feel most comfortable with."
Kompothecras lives in Florida and in 2011 was named as a co-chair of Mitt Romney's Florida finance team, according to Bloomberg.
Have you called 1-800-ASK-GARY or any other accident referral service in Minnesota? We want to hear about your experience. Call 612.673.4028 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.