Auto Insurance Fraud Summit Convenes Florida Lawmakers, Regulators, Law Enforcement and Insurance Industry In Miami Forum

Oct 13, 2011


Held this week in a town-hall-style meeting at the University of Miami, the third edition of the statewide “Auto Insurance Fraud Summit” convened approximately 350 people, who consisted of Florida Legislators, insurance regulators, law enforcement personnel, attorneys and insurance industry members.  The event was sponsored by the Latin American Association of Insurance Agents. 

Florida House of Representatives Insurance and Banking Subcommittee Chairman Bryan Nelson presided over the two-hour event, which included as panelists State Representative Jim Boyd; Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott; Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle; Monte Stevens, Legislative Director with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (“OIR”); Jose Cruz with the Fraud Alert Team; and Florida Highway Patrol Captain Mary Lathrop.  Several panelists gave short presentations.

Representative Boyd gave an overview of the issues relating to Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) statute, noting that he has sponsored HB 119, which he believes will begin to address some of these issues.  HB 119 includes revisions to the Florida Traffic Crash Report that would authorize officers to testify at trial or provide an affidavit, and would strengthen Florida’s clinic licensure laws. 

Mr. Cruz detailed recent fraud-prevention measures taken in Hillsborough County, most notably the passage of the PIP Medical Provider Ordinance.  The ordinance provides the County with authority to police PIP clinics. 

Captain Lathrop detailed the types of staged accidents and what consumers can watch for to prevent being victimized.  She explained that younger women, older drivers and distracted drivers are easier targets.

While violent crimes in Miami-Dade County have decreased by over 33 percent, crimes related to fraud have dramatically increased within the last two years, according to State Attorney Rundle.  Since 2010, over 12,000 incidents of insurance fraud have been reported.

Ms. Westcott remarked that the lawyer referral systems and pain clinics are at the heart of the PIP problems.  Those perpetrating the frauds are even starting to use the PIP benefits to gain access to Bodily Injury Coverage.  She also recapped some of the discussions from her PIP Working Group, which had met the previous day.  She explained that the numbers of people who are visiting emergency rooms have decreased, yet visits to clinics are on the rise, during which patients are merely receiving massages and hot/cold packs.  The pain clinics need to be aggressively pursued and shut down, she said.   

Mr. Stevens explain how PIP fraud impacts insurance rates.  Insurance companies, which have sustained a 140 percent loss for PIP coverage, must pass this expense to consumers, who then pay higher premiums that make up for the losses. 

Numerous audience members recalled their personal experiences with auto insurance fraud and asked panelists what can be done to prevent it.  Both State Attorney Rundle and Representative Boyd answered by indicating that the current penalties for insurance fraud are not enough of a deterrent.  Stricter sentencing guidelines with minimum mandatory sentences would give prosecutors the tools they need to send these criminals to prison.  

State Attorney Rundle also recommended the organization of citizens’ groups to attend and speak during sentencing hearings in order to illustrate to the courts how insurance fraud is a real problem impacting the community.  Ms. Westcott said consumer and public education is vital to effectuate any real change, as well as the support of Legislators in their pursuit of passing meaningful reform. 

Representative Nelson concluded the meeting by expressing the need for a “call for action,” and said a short e-mail will be generated in which pertinent problems and details of how PIP fraud is affecting premiums will be outlined.  He encouraged all in attendance to promulgate the e-mail and its general message.

As part of the event’s statewide road tour, the fourth and final “Auto Insurance Fraud Summit” is planned in Tallahassee in December, immediately prior to the start of the 2012 Legislative Session.


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