626.989 Investigation by department or Division of Insurance Fraud; compliance; immunity; confidential information; reports to division; division investigator’s power of arrest.—
(1) For the purposes of this section, a person commits a “fraudulent insurance act” if the person knowingly and with intent to defraud presents, causes to be presented, or prepares with knowledge or belief that it will be presented, to or by an insurer, self-insurer, self-insurance fund, servicing corporation, purported insurer, broker, or any agent thereof, any written statement as part of, or in support of, an application for the issuance of, or the rating of, any insurance policy, or a claim for payment or other benefit pursuant to any insurance policy, which the person knows to contain materially false information concerning any fact material thereto or if the person conceals, for the purpose of misleading another, information concerning any fact material thereto. For the purposes of this section, the term “insurer” also includes any health maintenance organization and the term “insurance policy” also includes a health maintenance organization subscriber contract.
(2) If, by its own inquiries or as a result of complaints, the department or its Division of Insurance Fraud has reason to believe that a person has engaged in, or is engaging in, a fraudulent insurance act, an act or practice that violates s. 626.9541 or s. 817.234, or an act or practice punishable under s. 624.15, it may administer oaths and affirmations, request the attendance of witnesses or proffering of matter, and collect evidence. The department shall not compel the attendance of any person or matter in any such investigation except pursuant to subsection (4).
(3) If matter that the department or its division seeks to obtain by request is located outside the state, the person so requested may make it available to the division or its representative to examine the matter at the place where it is located. The division may designate representatives, including officials of the state in which the matter is located, to inspect the matter on its behalf, and it may respond to similar requests from officials of other states.
(4)(a) The department or its division may request that an individual who refuses to comply with any such request be ordered by the circuit court to provide the testimony or matter. The court shall not order such compliance unless the department or its division has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the court that the testimony of the witness or the matter under request has a direct bearing on the commission of a fraudulent insurance act, on a violation of s. 626.9541 or s. 817.234, or on an act or practice punishable under s. 624.15 or is pertinent and necessary to further such investigation.
(b) Except in a prosecution for perjury, an individual who complies with a court order to provide testimony or matter after asserting a privilege against self-incrimination to which the individual is entitled by law may not be subjected to a criminal proceeding or to a civil penalty with respect to the act concerning which the individual is required to testify or produce relevant matter.
(c) In the absence of fraud or bad faith, a person is not subject to civil liability for libel, slander, or any other relevant tort by virtue of filing reports, without malice, or furnishing other information, without malice, required by this section or required by the department or division under the authority granted in this section, and no civil cause of action of any nature shall arise against such person:
1. For any information relating to suspected fraudulent insurance acts or persons suspected of engaging in such acts furnished to or received from law enforcement officials, their agents, or employees;
2. For any information relating to suspected fraudulent insurance acts or persons suspected of engaging in such acts furnished to or received from other persons subject to the provisions of this chapter;
3. For any such information furnished in reports to the department, the division, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or any local, state, or federal enforcement officials or their agents or employees; or
4. For other actions taken in cooperation with any of the agencies or individuals specified in this paragraph in the lawful investigation of suspected fraudulent insurance acts.
(d) In addition to the immunity granted in paragraph (c), persons identified as designated employees whose responsibilities include the investigation and disposition of claims relating to suspected fraudulent insurance acts may share information relating to persons suspected of committing fraudulent insurance acts with other designated employees employed by the same or other insurers whose responsibilities include the investigation and disposition of claims relating to fraudulent insurance acts, provided the department has been given written notice of the names and job titles of such designated employees prior to such designated employees sharing information. Unless the designated employees of the insurer act in bad faith or in reckless disregard for the rights of any insured, neither the insurer nor its designated employees are civilly liable for libel, slander, or any other relevant tort, and a civil action does not arise against the insurer or its designated employees:
1. For any information related to suspected fraudulent insurance acts provided to an insurer; or
2. For any information relating to suspected fraudulent insurance acts provided to the National Insurance Crime Bureau or the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Provided, however, that the qualified immunity against civil liability conferred on any insurer or its designated employees shall be forfeited with respect to the exchange or publication of any defamatory information with third persons not expressly authorized by this paragraph to share in such information.
(e) The Chief Financial Officer and any employee or agent of the department, commission, office, or division, when acting without malice and in the absence of fraud or bad faith, is not subject to civil liability for libel, slander, or any other relevant tort, and no civil cause of action of any nature exists against such person by virtue of the execution of official activities or duties of the department, commission, or office under this section or by virtue of the publication of any report or bulletin related to the official activities or duties of the department, division, commission, or office under this section.
(f) This section does not abrogate or modify in any way any common-law or statutory privilege or immunity heretofore enjoyed by any person.
(5) The office’s and the department’s papers, documents, reports, or evidence relative to the subject of an investigation under this section are confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) until such investigation is completed or ceases to be active. For purposes of this subsection, an investigation is considered “active” while the investigation is being conducted by the office or department with a reasonable, good faith belief that it could lead to the filing of administrative, civil, or criminal proceedings. An investigation does not cease to be active if the office or department is proceeding with reasonable dispatch and has a good faith belief that action could be initiated by the office or department or other administrative or law enforcement agency. After an investigation is completed or ceases to be active, portions of records relating to the investigation shall remain exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) if disclosure would:
(a) Jeopardize the integrity of another active investigation;
(b) Impair the safety and soundness of an insurer;
(c) Reveal personal financial information;
(d) Reveal the identity of a confidential source;
(e) Defame or cause unwarranted damage to the good name or reputation of an individual or jeopardize the safety of an individual; or
(f) Reveal investigative techniques or procedures. Further, such papers, documents, reports, or evidence relative to the subject of an investigation under this section shall not be subject to discovery until the investigation is completed or ceases to be active. Office, department, or division investigators shall not be subject to subpoena in civil actions by any court of this state to testify concerning any matter of which they have knowledge pursuant to a pending insurance fraud investigation by the division.
(6) Any person, other than an insurer, agent, or other person licensed under the code, or an employee thereof, having knowledge or who believes that a fraudulent insurance act or any other act or practice which, upon conviction, constitutes a felony or a misdemeanor under the code, or under s. 817.234, is being or has been committed may send to the Division of Insurance Fraud a report or information pertinent to such knowledge or belief and such additional information relative thereto as the department may request. Any professional practitioner licensed or regulated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, except as otherwise provided by law, any medical review committee as defined in s. 766.101, any private medical review committee, and any insurer, agent, or other person licensed under the code, or an employee thereof, having knowledge or who believes that a fraudulent insurance act or any other act or practice which, upon conviction, constitutes a felony or a misdemeanor under the code, or under s. 817.234, is being or has been committed shall send to the Division of Insurance Fraud a report or information pertinent to such knowledge or belief and such additional information relative thereto as the department may require. The Division of Insurance Fraud shall review such information or reports and select such information or reports as, in its judgment, may require further investigation. It shall then cause an independent examination of the facts surrounding such information or report to be made to determine the extent, if any, to which a fraudulent insurance act or any other act or practice which, upon conviction, constitutes a felony or a misdemeanor under the code, or under s. 817.234, is being committed. The Division of Insurance Fraud shall report any alleged violations of law which its investigations disclose to the appropriate licensing agency and state attorney or other prosecuting agency having jurisdiction with respect to any such violation, as provided in s. 624.310. If prosecution by the state attorney or other prosecuting agency having jurisdiction with respect to such violation is not begun within 60 days of the division’s report, the state attorney or other prosecuting agency having jurisdiction with respect to such violation shall inform the division of the reasons for the lack of prosecution.
(7) Division investigators shall have the power to make arrests for criminal violations established as a result of investigations. Such investigators shall also be considered state law enforcement officers for all purposes and shall have the power to execute arrest warrants and search warrants; to serve subpoenas issued for the examination, investigation, and trial of all offenses; and to arrest upon probable cause without warrant any person found in the act of violating any of the provisions of applicable laws. Investigators empowered to make arrests under this section shall be empowered to bear arms in the performance of their duties. In such a situation, the investigator must be certified in compliance with the provisions of s. 943.1395 or must meet the temporary employment or appointment exemption requirements of s. 943.131 until certified.
(8) It is unlawful for any person to resist an arrest authorized by this section or in any manner to interfere, either by abetting or assisting such resistance or otherwise interfering, with division investigators in the duties imposed upon them by law or department rule.
(9) In recognition of the complementary roles of investigating instances of workers’ compensation fraud and enforcing compliance with the workers’ compensation coverage requirements under chapter 440, the Department of Financial Services shall prepare and submit a joint performance report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by November 1, 2003, and then by January 1 of each year. The annual report must include, but need not be limited to:
(a) The total number of initial referrals received, cases opened, cases presented for prosecution, cases closed, and convictions resulting from cases presented for prosecution by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud by type of workers’ compensation fraud and circuit.
(b) The number of referrals received from insurers and the Division of Workers’ Compensation and the outcome of those referrals.
(c) The number of investigations undertaken by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud which were not the result of a referral from an insurer or the Division of Workers’ Compensation.
(d) The number of investigations that resulted in a referral to a regulatory agency and the disposition of those referrals.
(e) The number and reasons provided by local prosecutors or the statewide prosecutor for declining prosecution of a case presented by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud by circuit.
(f) The total number of employees assigned to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud and the Division of Workers’ Compensation Bureau of Compliance delineated by location of staff assigned; and the number and location of employees assigned to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud who were assigned to work other types of fraud cases.
(g) The average caseload and turnaround time by type of case for each investigator and division compliance employee.
(h) The training provided during the year to workers’ compensation fraud investigators and the division’s compliance employees.
History.—s. 9, ch. 76-266; s. 211, ch. 77-104; s. 20, ch. 77-468; s. 2, ch. 78-258; s. 2, ch. 79-81; s. 237, ch. 79-400; s. 3, ch. 81-48; ss. 807, 810, ch. 82-243; s. 92, ch. 83-216; s. 30, ch. 83-288; s. 1, ch. 87-334; s. 1, ch. 89-42; ss. 189, 206, 207, ch. 90-363; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 11, ch. 92-324; s. 10, ch. 93-80; s. 8, ch. 93-252; s. 224, ch. 94-218; s. 5, ch. 95-340; s. 378, ch. 96-406; s. 1729, ch. 97-102; s. 15, ch. 98-174; s. 2, ch. 99-204; s. 4, ch. 2001-271; s. 87, ch. 2001-277; s. 66, ch. 2002-194; s. 5, ch. 2003-148; s. 1041, ch. 2003-261; s. 43, ch. 2003-412; s. 77, ch. 2004-390.