Jeff Atwater

Put brakes on auto insurance fraud

Floridians are getting ripped off by the cost of auto insurance fraud. The evidence is piling up right along with the bills.

Florida currently leads the nation in auto insurance fraud. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Florida has three of the top five cities nationally for questionable medical claims associated with staged accidents: Tampa, Miami and Orlando. More than 3,000 staged accidents were reported in Florida between 2007 and 2009, more than twice the number reported by the state in the No. 2 spot, New York.

These are astonishing statistics considering the Florida's Division of Insurance Fraud leads the nation in arrests and convictions.

Florida law requires drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection coverage and $10,000 in property damage liability coverage. PIP coverage provides $10,000 per accident for medical bills, regardless of who is at fault. The idea behind PIP was to eliminate lawsuits, but consumers have complained of being pursued by attorneys even when they reported no injuries.

Who picks up the tab? Every Floridian who has an auto insurance policy and a car in the driveway.

Our citizens should not have to foot the bill to line the pockets of criminals.

As Florida's chief financial officer, I am determined to put the brakes on this costly crime. Working with local law enforcement and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, we will put the criminals who perpetrate PIP fraud behind bars. During the coming legislative session, I am proposing the following policy solutions:

• Strengthen billing practices so only appropriate services rendered are covered, curtailing the incentive for kickbacks and improper referrals.

• Create civil penalties for those convicted of automobile insurance fraud, the proceeds of which will be used to fund additional antifraud efforts.

• Require law officers to list all passengers in accident reports to eliminate fraud perpetrators from later claiming passengers.

• Address litigation costs that drive up the costs of auto insurance for Floridians.

• Tighten requirements for clinic ownership.

Legislative leaders have already initiated efforts to help stop these losses and keep Floridians' hard-earned dollars in their pockets, where they belong.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater oversees the Department of Financial Services, including the Division of Insurance Fraud.

Put brakes on auto insurance fraud 03/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 8:53pm]

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