Florida Lawmakers Try to Put Brakes on Auto Insurance Fraud

Two lawmakers rolled out proposals Wednesday aimed at curbing staged auto accidents that they say are costing the state billions of dollars in fraudulent insurance payouts.

Florida is one of the leading states for staged auto accidents, most experts agree. The trouble stems from scammers abusing the state-mandated no-fault insurance, called personal injury protection or PIP. The $10,000 coverage pays for accident injuries to a driver and passengers regardless of who is at fault and costs the average driver $100 to $200 a year.

Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Manatee, propose SB 1930 and HB 1411, which, among other things, would increase penalties for medical providers who participate in auto accident fraud, require law enforcement to conduct a more thorough investigation of an auto accident and give insurance companies more time to investigate suspicious claims.

This was a big issue in the 2007 session, when then-House Speaker Marco Rubio said he would let the mandatory insurance coverage expire unless more antifraud measures were enacted.

Rubio gave in after a compromise bill limited prices some medical facilities and doctors can charge insurers for non­emergency care and required that PIP clinics be owned or overseen by licensed doctors.

But it did little to solve the problem.

The Division of Insurance Fraud received more than 5,500 complaints of PIP fraud during fiscal year 2009-10, which was more than 40 percent of all fraud complaints. Investigators made 337 arrests that resulted in 240 convictions. In 2006-07, the final full year before the first reforms, the state received 3,600 complaints of PIP fraud, made 316 arrests and received 204 convictions.

Bogdanoff, who helped craft the 2007 PIP legislation, admitted Wednesday in a press conference with Boyd and state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater that the reforms didn\’t go far enough.


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