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New Rules for Closing Residential Transactions
If a buyer of a residential listing applies for a mortgage loan on or after August 1, 2015, new federal regulations will apply to the loan transaction.  Generally, these new regulations will apply to all transactions involving a new residential mortgage loan. Cash and commercial transactions, even if a residence is involved, are not affected.  

New Forms Replace GFE and HUD-1 Settlement Statement
After August 1, 2015 buyers applying for a mortgage loan will receive a Loan Estimate from the lender instead of the current Good Faith Estimate (GFE).  Buyers will generally receive the Loan Estimate three days after applying for their loan.
The other new form, the Closing Disclosure, will include all of the information currently found on the HUD-1 settlement statement (HUD-1); it will also include an additional three pages of financial disclosures currently found on other forms.  The traditional HUD-1 information will be found on pages two and three of the new five-page Closing Disclosure.  However, the Closing Disclosure does not use the same familiar categories found on the HUD-1 and some costs are in a different area.  For example, your real estate commission and any related charges for your services will be located in Section H labeled “Other” at the bottom of page two of the new form.


 

Lender Will Prepare Closing Disclosure
While the new rule allows a lender to authorize a settlement agent to prepare the new form, for a variety of reasons you should expect that the lender will prepare this new five-page form.  This is a brand new challenge for lenders because most of the information currently found on the HUD-1 is gathered by the settlement agent.  For example, your commission, association assessments, home warranties, inspection fees, etc.
Settlement agents will continue to be responsible for gathering this information and providing it to the lender.  They will need to provide exact information about services and charges to the lender in a timely fashion. Therefore, you will need to communicate your information to the settlement agent much, much earlier than day of closing, perhaps two weeks before the scheduled closing date!  Why?  Read on.

Borrower to Receive Closing Disclosure 3 Business Days before Closing
The Closing Disclosure must be received by the borrower three business days before closing. (“Business day” here means every day except Sundays and federal legal holidays.)  Since it is difficult to determine if a borrower actually received the new form, most lenders will rely on the additional three business days required when the form is mailed, couriered or emailed. That means six business days must elapse from the time the Closing Disclosure is sent to the borrower and closing.
Lenders are routinely announcing that they will require the settlement agent to provide final information to them 10 days in advance of a requested closing date.  We believe a good rule for you to keep in mind is “two weeks in advance.”

Revised Closing Disclosure on Day of Closing
The lender’s closing package will be delivered to the settlement agent on the day of closing and it will contain another Closing Disclosure.  If no changes have been made it will be the same one sent to the borrower six days in advance.  If the information on that form has become inaccurate, or if new information has been added, the package will contain a Revised Closing Disclosure.  Usually, this revision will not require another three day waiting period.  Do not rely upon this feature to delay the delivery of information because only the lender can make the changes.  Alert your settlement agent immediately to anything that comes up, particularly during the walk-through, so the settlement agent will have time to inform the lender of needed revisions.
Technology and the New Business Model
For a variety of reasons, lenders will be requiring a new method of communication between themselves, settlement agents, borrowers, and others.  Phone calls, email, text messages, and faxes may not be acceptable once the transition is complete.  This transition is not required to be done by any set date, but lenders have already begun its implementation.
The new method of communication is the electronic transfer of information via a secure internet website.  Log-in will be required and all documents and information will be delivered to a lender in this fashion.  This internet site will create and deliver the Closing Disclosure using the collaborative efforts of the lender, the settlement agent, and others.  Currently, several of the larger residential lenders have identified Closing Insight™, a product of RealEC® Technologies, as the software they will use.  

Facing a criminal charge is one of the most frightening and unsettling experiences anyone can ever face. For most men and women, the criminal law process is entirely unfamiliar ground: Beginning with the initial arrest and throughout the criminal process, an individual who’s been charged with a crime may feel their life has been turned upside down and have no idea what steps to take to protect themselves.

For any individual facing a criminal charge, the first and most important step to take is to engage an attorney who has experience and skill in handling criminal charges. An experienced defense attorney knows the legal process involved in a criminal case and is powerfully positioned to ensure your case is as strong as it can be.

Palma Law Group attorneys are proficient in handling criminal defense cases; they have the resources and the knowledge necessary to craft the best possible defense. From gathering witness testimony to finding experienced expert witnesses, Palma will work with you every step of the way to make sure your voice is heard and your version of events is clearly understood.

At Palma, we fully understand the potential repercussions of a criminal charge: Your liberty is at stake and we use every available resource to ensure your freedom is fully protected. In a criminal case, your reputation is also under fire. That’s why we work tirelessly from the beginning to make sure your rights are understood – not only by the court and the opposing counsel, but also by the media covering the case. At the end of the criminal process, we want you to emerge as whole as possible, and we will work with you to explain your rights and answer your questions to help you feel confident and provide as much peace of mind as we possibly can.
Being charged with a crime is a scary, unnerving and life-altering experience; without skilled legal representation, it’s easy to react without thinking clearly. Palma Law wants to help you navigate the criminal process as smoothly as possible with a clear focus on protecting your rights.

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, enlisting the aid of an attorney who is ready and able to aggressively fight for your rights is the most critical step you can take in protecting yourself and your future. The entire staff of Palma Law Group is ready to help you fight what could be one of the biggest battles of your life. Call us at 727-669-3909 to schedule a free consultation.

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Florida’s new texting law went into effect at the beginning of this month, but many legislators, law enforcement officials and special interest groups believe the measure falls short in providing the protection Florida consumers truly need.

According to the law’s critics, the legislation misses the mark in several key areas: First, under the new law, texting while driving is only a secondary offense, which means a driver cannot be pulled over unless they are also committing another infraction of state driving laws – for instance, driving recklessly or speeding. Many states that have texting laws have made texting while driving a primary offense, which means drivers can be pulled over and fined for using phones whether or not they have committed another driving infraction.

Second, the law only addresses texting and does not apply to those who make phone calls while driving, which also can pose substantial risks. The law allows drivers to text while stopped in traffic – even during the few moments at a red light – and it also does not affect the use of GPS while driving, two activities which can contribute to dangerous distraction while on the road.

Even when a driver is fined for texting while driving, the first offense involves a $30 fine, which many critics believe is too low to have any real consequence on future behavior. And, when an auto accident occurs where texting is suspected as a possible cause, attorneys are prohibited from obtaining records from cell phone carriers unless the accident results in injury or death.

Last year in Florida, 4,841 confirmed phone-related vehicle accidents were reported, according to statistics from the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. According to the National Safety Council, across the country about 1.3 million cell phone-related crashes occur each year. That’s more than one accident every 24 seconds. The ever-increasing popularity of cell phones gives little hope that those statistics will experience any meaningful improvement unless laws are put into effect that address this serious threat to driver safety.

If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, whether or not cell phone usage was involved, chances are you’ve incurred some accident-related costs – either for medical care or pain and suffering as a result of lost wages. Having an attorney who is focused on protecting your rights as an accident victim is the best way to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. At Palma Law Group, we understand the anxiety and concerns you’re facing, and we’re ready to provide the compassionate and skilled guidance you need to get your life back on track. Contact us today at (727) 669-3909 or http://palmalawgroup.com/

Florida’s new texting law went into effect at the beginning of this month, but many legislators, law enforcement officials and special interest groups believe the measure falls short in providing the protection Florida consumers truly need.
According to the law’s critics, the legislation misses the mark in several key areas: First, under the new law, texting while driving is only a secondary offense, which means a driver cannot be pulled over unless they are also committing another infraction of state driving laws – for instance, driving recklessly or speeding. Many states that have texting laws have made texting while driving a primary offense, which means drivers can be pulled over and fined for using phones whether or not they have committed another driving infraction.
Second, the law only addresses texting and does not apply to those who make phone calls while driving, which also can pose substantial risks. The law allows drivers to text while stopped in traffic – even during the few moments at a red light – and it also does not affect the use of GPS while driving, two activities which can contribute to dangerous distraction while on the road.
Even when a driver is fined for texting while driving, the first offense involves a $30 fine, which many critics believe is too low to have any real consequence on future behavior. And, when an auto accident occurs where texting is suspected as a possible cause, attorneys are prohibited from obtaining records from cell phone carriers unless the accident results in injury or death.
Last year in Florida, 4,841 confirmed phone-related vehicle accidents were reported, according to statistics from the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. According to the National Safety Council, across the country about 1.3 million cell phone-related crashes occur each year. That’s more than one accident every 24 seconds. The ever-increasing popularity of cell phones gives little hope that those statistics will experience any meaningful improvement unless laws are put into effect that address this serious threat to driver safety.
If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, whether or not cell phone usage was involved, chances are you’ve incurred some accident-related costs – either for medical care or pain and suffering as a result of lost wages. Having an attorney who is focused on protecting your rights as an accident victim is the best way to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. At Palma Law Group, we understand the anxiety and concerns you’re facing, and we’re ready to provide the compassionate and skilled guidance you need to get your life back on track. Contact us today at (727) 669-3909 or visit www.palmalawgroup.com to schedule a consultation.

Even before State Farm filed its lawsuit this summer, charging that 1-800-ASK GARY operator and owner Gary Kompothecras had defrauded the insurance company of potentially millions of dollars – not to mention the fraud the referral service allegedly perpetrated on the thousands of unsuspecting accident victims who contacted the service – the State of Florida was looking into possible illegal activities surrounding 1-800-ASK GARY and Kompothecras himself.

According to a report published in Bloomberg way back in 2011, both Florida’s Division of Insurance Fraud and the FBI have been looking into the ASK GARY service, in part to determine if attorneys have directed or recommended treatment based on how much insurance coverage patients have – a violation of law, since only licensed medical practitioners are allowed to determine the course of treatment a patient needs to receive.

The Bloomberg report characterizes Kompothecras as “a chiropractor who has grown wealthy and gained prominence in Florida catering to car accident victims.” Drawing from accounts from patients and former employees of ASK GARY, as well as medical bills and internal e-mails, the Bloomberg article says Kompothecras’ Physicians Group – the clinics which received 100% of ASK GARY referrals – padded medical costs by “adding to demand for services, charging premium prices and working with lawyers that pursue maximum payouts for injury claims.”

Another article published in United Auto Courts Reports says that based on information uncovered in the Bloomberg piece, it’s not the accident victims who benefit from using the service, but rather “the people who are likely to benefit are Kompothecras, owners of so-called pain clinics, and personal injury lawyers. The injured person they claim to care about comes last, if that.”

The State Farm suit alleges that the clinics kept patients in treatment until their insurance benefits were exhausted, providing treatment that often was unnecessary. Moreover, the suit says that while ASK GARY’s ad campaigns – which run almost $13 million per year – imply the company is an independent referral service, in fact every single referral made by ASK GARY directed patients to clinics owned by Kompothecras. The court date for the State Farm case has not yet been established.

Palma Law Group is committed to providing its clients with legal guidance that is designed to meet each client’s unique needs. Our attorneys and staff value our clients and the trust they place in us in handling their legal needs during what is often a very stressful period of their lives. If you’ve been in an accident, you need an attorney who puts your needs and rights first. To find out how Palma can help you protect your rights and get your life back on track, call 727-669-3909.

State Farm insurance company has filed a lawsuit against accident referral service 1-800-ASK GARY, charging the company is nothing more than a “massive fraud scheme.” Posing a referral service designed to help callers find medical and legal help following an auto accident, the suit alleges the ASK GARY service, owned by WS Marketing, only makes referrals to chiropractor Gary Kompothecras and his Physicians Group practice, and that WS Marketing is nothing more than a shell company set up by Kompothecras’ cousin, William Sigelakis.

What’s more, the suit charges some attorneys’ offices who received referrals from the ASK GARY hotline in turn sent their clients to Physicians Now for necessary medical documentation.

The premise of 1-800-ASK GARY is simple: Accident victims often feel helpless and don’t know where to turn for the medical and legal help they need. ASK GARY positions itself as an unbiased referral service ready to help callers locate medical and legal providers who can help them. But the suit says the service sent callers to Kompothecras’ Physicians Group, which made millions of dollars in insurance claims from callers who went to them for help. In fact, State Farm says it’s paid Kompothecras’ group more than $20 million in claims since 2005; for its part, Physicians Group has countered by alleging State Farm owes the practice more than $9 million more in unpaid claims.

Taken together, that would imply Physicians Group has charged between $20 million and $30million in claims against the insurer during the past eight years. With money like that at stake, the temptation to commit fraud is great, which means consumers must be even more vigilant when using referral services.

In its lawsuit, which was filed in federal court late last month, State Farm said, “The driving force behind the Defendants’ scheme is to exhaust their unsuspecting patients’ limited no-fault benefits, without regard to whether the patients may have health insurance that might otherwise cover some or all of Physicians Group’s charges, thereby preserving their no-fault benefits for other medical services that the patients may truly need.”

To avoid being taken advantage of, auto accident and personal injury victims should ask friends, relatives and co-workers about their own experiences using attorneys and medical facilities when possible. Consumers should also be sure to perform their own research to identify attorneys and medical practices with solid reputations and experience in helping accident victims receive the compensation they deserve.

Serving clients in the Tampa area and throughout Florida, Palma Law Group understands the challenges and concerns faced by accident victims, and their staff is committed to helping victims become whole again. To learn more about Palma Law Group call 727-669-3909 today.

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TAMPA, Fla. – Late last month, State Farm Insurance sued physician and legal referral service 1-800-Ask-Gary, saying the service was no more than a “massive fraud scheme,” designed to send callers to one specific physician group and receiving kickbacks from lawyers who participated in the service. The suit claims 1-800-Ask Gary defrauded the insurance company of millions of dollars. While the suit remains to be settled, even now it can teach consumers valuable lessons.
 
Ask Gary operates in three states – Florida, Kentucky and Minnesota – and the website features disclaimers for all three locations. For anyone who scrolled to the bottom of the 1-800-Ask Gary website to read the small italic print, the purpose of the referral service becomes crystal clear: In Minnesota, the site notes that the service is an affiliate of Physicians Group LLC and owned by an M.D. and chiropractic doctor; for Florida, the site states Physicians Group LLC has paid a fee to participate in the service; and in Kentucky, the disclaimer notes that 1-800-Ask Gary is the marketing arm of Kentucky Spine and Rehab, Inc.
 
These disclaimers seem to show that not only was the 1-800-Ask Gary a referral service, it was a referral machine, developed to provide a continuous flow of patients to specific care providers. While these disclaimers may have allowed the Ask Gary operators to legally run their business, sadly, legality and ethics often are not the same issue.
 
The moral of this story is that no one has a greater interest in your health and well-being than you and your loved ones. While it would be nice to think that when you’re facing the pain and stress of an auto accident, there’s a group that has your best interests at heart, you still need to be on your guard for the people who are willing to take advantage of your discomfort for their own gains.
 
In a nutshell, when it comes to your own medical or legal care and guidance, you need to do your own homework. Asking friends, relatives and coworkers and surfing the Internet on your own behalf to identify physicians and attorneys with a reputation for helping clients and patients is the best way to make sure you get the medical care and legal guidance you need and deserve.
 
At Palma Law Group, we’ve built our practice on helping accident victims protect their rights and their own best interests. We provide compassionate and skilled legal guidance and representation so you can get back to living your life with security and peace of mind.
 
If you’ve been in an accident, learn how we can help you. Contact Palma Law Group today at 727-669-3909 or visit our website at www.palmalawgroup.com.

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At Palma Law Group, P.A., our Partners have 22 years combined experience dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals.
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State Farm insurance company has filed a lawsuit against accident referral service 1-800-ASK GARY, charging the company is nothing more than a “massive fraud scheme.” Posing a referral service designed to help callers find medical and legal help following an auto accident, the suit alleges the ASK GARY service, owned by WS Marketing, only makes referrals to chiropractor Gary Kompothecras and his Physicians Group practice, and that WS Marketing is nothing more than a shell company set up by Kompothecras’ cousin, William Sigelakis. 

What’s more, the suit charges some attorneys’ offices who received referrals from the ASK GARY hotline in turn sent their clients to Physicians Now for necessary medical documentation.

The premise of 1-800-ASK GARY is simple: Accident victims often feel helpless and don’t know where to turn for the medical and legal help they need. ASK GARY positions itself as an unbiased referral service ready to help callers locate medical and legal providers who can help them. But the suit says the service sent callers to Kompothecras’ Physicians Group, which made millions of dollars in insurance claims from callers who went to them for help. In fact, State Farm says it’s paid Kompothecras’ group more than $20 million in claims since 2005; for its part, Physicians Group has countered by alleging State Farm owes the practice more than $9 million more in unpaid claims.

Taken together, that would imply Physicians Group has charged between $20 million and $30million in claims against the insurer during the past eight years. With money like that at stake, the temptation to commit fraud is great, which means consumers must be even more vigilant when using referral services. 

In its lawsuit, which was filed in federal court late last month, State Farm said, “The driving force behind the Defendants’ scheme is to exhaust their unsuspecting patients’ limited no-fault benefits, without regard to whether the patients may have health insurance that might otherwise cover some or all of Physicians Group’s charges, thereby preserving their no-fault benefits for other medical services that the patients may truly need.” 

To avoid being taken advantage of, auto accident and personal injury victims should ask friends, relatives and co-workers about their own experiences using attorneys and medical facilities when possible. Consumers should also be sure to perform their own research to identify attorneys and medical practices with solid reputations and experience in helping accident victims receive the compensation they deserve.

Serving clients in the Tampa area and throughout Florida, Palma Law Group understands the challenges and concerns faced by accident victims, and their staff is committed to helping victims become whole again. To learn more about Palma Law Group, visit www.palmalawgroup.com or call 727-669-3909 today.

If you live in Florida and you watch TV or listen to the radio, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with the service known as 1-800-ASK-GARY, which promotes itself as a medical and legal referral service for people who have been victims of auto accidents. People who call the number may think they’re receiving unbiased recommendations based on their location or needs, but a recently filed lawsuit charges that what callers actually receive are referrals to the same medical practice – Physicians Group, owned by wealthy chiropractor Gary Kompothecras. According to the lawsuit, the ASK GARY service is no more than a “massive fraud scheme.”

State Farm, which has paid Kompothecras almost $20 million since 2005 as a result of the ASK GARY referrals, entered the federal suit in the Middle District of Florida late last month. The suit alleges Kompothecras’ service only made medical referrals to Physicians Group and never referred callers to any outside healthcare provider. In addition, the suit says Kompothecras’ referral service took kickbacks from personal injury attorneys who received referrals from ASK GARY callers; in turn, the suit adds, many of those attorneys sent their clients to Physicians Group for medical treatment.

In an attempt to provide some anonymity for Physicians Group, the suit says two “shell companies” were established by two separate individuals to make ASK GARY appear “independent and legitimate.” One of the two men named in the suit is William Sigelakis, Kompothecras’ cousin. Sigelakis’ company, WS Marketing, is listed as the owner of the ASK GARY referral service.

For its part, Physicians Group denies the allegations and charges that State Farm owes more than $9 million for over 1,000 unpaid claims made to the insurance company.

At Palma Law, we believe in dealing honestly with our clients. While it’s disappointing to read the allegations made by State Farm in their recent lawsuit, we believe the suit is a good sign that the legal system can help to ferret out and identify companies that may be taking advantage of customers who turn to them in good faith. While the ASK GARY case remains to be tried, we encourage consumers to use their best judgment and do their own research – either through the Internet or by gathering information from friends, relatives or coworkers – when making decisions about legal and medical care.

If you’ve been involved in an auto accident or other personal injury accident, we can help you get the compensation you need to cover your medical fees and other accident-related costs. Contact us today at (727) 669-3909 or visit palmalawgroup.com to schedule a consultation.
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