The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says Florida now holds the top spot in the country in questionable insurance claims for what appear to be staged accidents. The number went up 77 percent in the first half of last year compared with the same period in 2009. The prime spots for the crime in the state are Tampa, Orlando and Miami, but it’s been increasing in Palm Beach County at an alarming rate. Suspected staged accidents in West Palm Beach surged from 50 in 2008 to 96 in 2009. The reason staging an accident is so lucrative in Florida is the state’s personal injury protection (PIP) law, which pays up to $10,000 in medical claims for a person injured in an accident without having to determine fault, a requirement in most states.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has pledged to toughen the law to reduce fraud and put criminals who commit it in jail. But proving an insurance claim is a scam recently got harder when the Florida Supreme Court struck down insurers’ ability to require people suspected of fraud to answer questions under oath and submit to an independent medical exam. The NICB’s operations director, Ron Poindexter, who also is a former director of the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, also is lobbying for a statewide grand jury to crack down on the crime.