Insurance fraud: Staged crashes rob Floridians

No-fault fraud gangs prove it’s possible to steal more money with a ball­point pen than a gun. Insurance fraud: Staged crashes rob Floridians By Walter Dartland Every day. staged-crash gangs and crooked clinics rob hardworking Floridians with brazen insurance schemes that ex­ploit loopholes in our no-fault auto- insurance system. Large and loose­ly organized fraud gangs are setting up sham medical clin­ics around the state. These quack shacks steal hundreds of millions of dollars a year by mass-producing bogus injury claims from setup car crashes. The Sunshine State has the forget­table honor of being America’s epi­center of this crime No-fault cons have rapidly spread upstate from South Florida in recent years. Typi­cal two-car Florida families now pay nearly $100 in higher auto premiums every year, says the Information Institute. The fraud tax could reach nearly $170 this year if nothing is done to stop what amounts to brazen highway robbery But thankfully, legislation (SB 1930 and HB1411) would set up much- needed roadblocks against no-fault schemes. Sen.EUyn Bogdanoff, R-Ft. I-auderdale and Rep. Jim Boyd. R- Brandenton. introduced companion bills last week. These bills would save drivers money and strike hard at no-fault crime. Among other things, the mea­sures would: Increase penalties for trying to deceptively set up shady medical clinics: Better identify bogus car pas­sengers who make dishonest injury claims: Allow insurers more time and tools to investigate suspicious no- fault claims, while encouraging them to pay legitimate claims fairly and quickly: Forbid medical providers to bill policyholders directly for question­able injury claims: Provide consumers discounts for using honest, insurer-vetted PPO clinics. Consumers, insurance companies and law enforcement have joined forces to support these reforms through the Sunshine Alliance to Erase Fraud. Together, we’re pushing for passage this session. State CFO Jeff Atwater also is a committed supporter of the bills. No-fault fraud gangs prove it’s possible to steal more money with a ball-point pen than a gun. But our lives and safety also are at stake. Some staged-crash gangs try to maneuver honest Florida motorists into real-live car accidents. At high speed, these crashes endanger in­nocent motorists who are just mind­ing their own business. People have been killed in other states. No-fault crooks also try to recruit real crash victims to unknowingly get worthless injury treatment at shady clinics. Would you or your family want medical care from fraud factories that exist only to steal mon­ey? Clamping down on no-fault crime is something we can all rally behind. But we only have a small window for passage this year. Tallahassee’s short legislative session ends in less then two months. We must urge our state legislators to support passage of the Bogdanoff-Boyd reforms now. Together, all honest Floridians can show swindlers that no-fault fraud isn’t a road to riches but a highway straight to jail. Walter Dartland is co-chair of the Sunshine Alliance to Erase Fraud, and executive director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast. Sun Sentinel Broward County March 27, 2011