A recent report in the Orlando Sentinel says that auto insurance fraud is no longer growing. This should be taken in the same spirit as news that Mount St. Helens no longer erupts. A 2012 law was designed to put the brakes on auto insurance fraud, but instead has resulted in Florida starring in an episode of a new television series called American Takedown. In the season’s episode three, Florida Department of Financial Service’s insurance fraud investigators spent a year building a case against Sandy Morales, the owner of a Jacksonville chiropractic clinic, accused of organizing a complex PIP fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 45 years.
Personal injury protection pays 80 percent of accident-related medical expenses, 60 percent of lost wages, and $5000 in death benefit. This protection was originally designed to stop lawsuits for reimbursement and damages resulting from an accident. However, it is these very provisions that have caused it to become a cash cow for the unscrupulous. All Florida drivers are required by law to carry it. It was designed to protect Florida motorists, but has instead been exploited by individuals looking for easy money. Clinic owners, tow truck drivers, and even people off the street have been suckered into committing fraudulent acts.
Fake auto accidents result in fake insurance claims that end up costing Florida motorists real money in the form of higher premiums. The approaches can take some different forms, such as being offered money to fake an auto accident, file a false claim, or even an offer of payment to go to a particular clinic. The Division of Insurance Fraud has beefed up its approach with eight dedicated squads and over 40 detectives, and with the assistance of prosecutors are sending those convicted of insurance fraud to prison on top of ordering restitution and imposing fines. State licensed professionals could even lose their Florida professional licenses if they are convicted of such crimes. In tough financial times, making a quick and easy buck can be a pretty tempting offer. However, if you look at the risks involved, it’s not worth it. Insurance fraud is a felony. When you weigh the potential gains against potential losses, you have so much more to lose than your car and your license.
For those who are approached and solicited to participate in insurance fraud, reporting can put a reward of up to $25,000 in your pocket, should that report lead to arrest and conviction. Insurance fraud has often been referred to as a white-collar crime, as if it is any less of a crime than robbery. Fraud is still a theft, no matter how you look at it. While you might think of it as taking money from an insurance company, the money comes from drivers just like you who have paid their premiums in good faith. If you are not sure that you have been approached to participate in insurance fraud, have a talk with your insurance agent.