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Hillsborough looks to crack down on clinics that benefit from staged crashes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County is seeking to crack down on people who stage accidents to fraudulently collect insurance by targeting the clinics that treat them.

Officials say that Hillsborough County is one of the biggest staging grounds for bogus accidents in the country. Tampa far outpaces other major cities in Florida, says the National Insurance Crime Bureau, driving up the cost of auto insurance for law-abiding citizens.

Florida is one of just 10 states that require drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance. The so-called no-fault insurance covers up to $10,000 in medical expenses for people hurt in automobile accidents.

The issue of cracking down on rogue clinics was discussed at Thursday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting.

Law enforcement officials say criminals recruit people to stage accidents, then usher them though a process designed to collect that insurance payout, whether they are injured or not. Participants in the scheme collect their cut of money during the process.

There are more than 150 clinics in Hillsborough County that primarily focus on that narrow sliver of health care, according to the Sheriff's Office. While some are legitimate, officials say others have a tenuous connection to the medical profession and are actually just fronts to submit the insurance claims of people feigning injury.

As they did with pain management clinics, commissioners are proposing a local law that would require clinics specializing in auto-accident treatment to be licensed. It also would require those clinics to have a medical director on hand who is responsible for treatment and would be held accountable for bogus claims. Employees of the clinics would be subject to criminal background checks.

The proposed ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing before the County Commission on Sept. 21.

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com.

Hillsborough looks to crack down on clinics that benefit from staged crashes 09/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 10:55pm]
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