Suspected Staged Accidents Soar 58% in Florida; Tampa Now No. 1

June 29, 2010

The number of suspicious auto accidents that were staged or deliberately caused by criminals in Florida has increased dramatically in the past year.

A study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) of questionable claims (QCs) submitted by its insurance company members shows a 58 percent jump from 2008 to 2009.

“South Florida used to be the focal point of these deliberate crashes,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “While the Miami and Hialeah areas continue to show increased activity, the criminals have expanded their operation northward and Tampa is now at the epicenter of this crime trend.”

Wehrle said the number of questionable claims for all insurance fraud increased 15 percent from 2008 to 2009 in Florida. But the 58 percent jump in the staged/caused accident category shows that criminals are taking advantage of the state’s no-fault auto accident coverage.

“Previous industry studies have shown that among the 12 states that have no-fault coverage, Florida had the highest rates of fraud and buildup in both bodily injury (BI) and personal injury protection (PIP). The criminals who are staging and deliberately causing these accidents have been doing so because they can file claims for alleged injuries and collect big payments with little risk of getting caught.

Wehrle said his organization created a Major Medical Fraud Task Force to work with law enforcement officials in South Florida in 2002 to focus on this type of insurance fraud. Now a similar task force will concentrate in Tampa and Orlando.

“That (south Florida) cooperative effort has resulted in numerous successes and the criminals are feeling the heat. That’s one of the reasons they are moving up the state to the Tampa and Orlando areas,” he said.

NICB has begun a public awareness campaign in the Tampa area, using billboard and bus shelter ads, as well as radio spots to urge people who suspect a staged accident scheme to call 1-800-TEL-NICB or text their information to TIP411, keyword “fraud.'”

The NICB report shows Tampa with 487 QCs related to staged/caused accidents in 2009, a 290 percent increase over the previous year. Miami had 258, an 11 percent increase, and Orlando had 240, a 24 percent increase.

Florida Staged Accident Questionable Claims by Loss City 2008 vs. 2009

Top five (5) Loss Cities for 2008 and 2009

Rank City 2008 Total City 2009 Total Increase

1 Miami 232 Tampa 487 290%

2 Orlando 193 Miami 258 11%

3 Tampa 125 Orlando 240 24%

4 Hialeah 69 Hialeah 98 42%

5 West Palm Beach 50 West Palm 96 92%

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