Fla. Passed More Staged Accident Reforms This Year Than Any State

May 9, 2006

Florida’s Legislature responded to a pandemic of staged accidents by passing the most-sweeping fraud reforms of any state this year, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

“The legislature realizes how serious a problem that entrenched staged-accident rings have become,” Howard Goldblatt, CAIF director of government affairs, said. “The state’s lawmakers had the political will to pass urgently needed reforms that benefit everyone except the fraud rings.”

Three bills cleared the legislature before it ended its spring sessions late last week. Assuming Gov. Bush signs the two largest fraud bills as expected, Florida also will have passed more laws clamping down on staged accident gangs than any state in this new century, Goldblatt said.

Among other things, this year’s reforms would:

* Make staging accidents solely on paper a crime with penalties equal to staging real crashes. No-fault swindlers were avoiding stiff penalties by making fake injury claims from “paper” accidents that don’t involve real cars;

* Tighten public access to police accident reports and related traffic citations. No-fault swindlers were using the reports to recruit crash victims into PIP schemes;

* Yank the driver licenses of anyone convicted of auto fraud;

* the crash, and create a legal presumption that anyone not listed wasn’t in the crash; and

* Require medical clinics that treat crash victims to display notices about Florida’s reward program for reporting insurance fraud.

“Several reforms plug gaps in fraud laws that staged-accident rings were exploiting,” Goldblatt added. “Rings are constantly probing for loopholes. Fraud fighters must continually review the fraud laws to make sure they’re still effective barriers to swindles.”

Gov. Jeb Bush may veto a third bill adding $1.2 million in anti-fraud funds. The controversial measure also would extend Florida’s no-fault system, which was scheduled to sunset next year, Goldblatt said.

The Department of Financial Services championed several of this year’s reforms, which build on no-fault fraud laws Florida adopted in 2001 and 2003.

Florida insurers have suffered billions of dollars in fake injury claims from staged-accident rings in recent years. Officials have estimated annual fraud losses at $1 billion or more for the populous Miami-Dade area alone.

Despite rapidly increasing arrests and convictions, fraud fighters have struggled to counter the sheer volume of large, loosely organized rings that operate in Florida.

Hundreds of medical clinics, for example, have been erected solely to mass-produce bogus injury claims from staged and real car crashes, Goldblatt notes.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud is a national organization combating all forms of insurance fraud through public education, research, and stronger legislation and regulation. Visit www.InsuranceFraud.org.

Source: The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

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