Florida’s recent legislative session was filled with victories and losses for both parties. Surprisingly, one issue that is costing Floridians every year received little reform.
Auto insurance fraud has risen dramatically in Florida and has driven up costs associated with auto accidents for policyholders around the country. A recent article by Fox Business noted that Florida is the leader in staged accidents. The article discussed some of the negative impacts of Florida’s no-fault insurance system – a system utilized by 11 other states and Puerto Rico – which, as the article contends, has created a pool of funds that offenders exploit by staging accidents and utilizing crooked medical professionals to operate clinics that file false claims. Consequently, over 2,700 Florida claims were referred to the National Insurance Crime Bureau last year and it is estimated that insurance fraud costs Florida about $1 billion a year.
In light of these problems, lawmakers made efforts to tackle the issue. In April, the Miami Herald highlighted two bills, SB 1930 and SB 1694, aimed at combatting insurance fraud. SB 1930 would provide insurance carriers 90 days to investigate a claim before making payment medical payments (as opposed to Florida’s 30-day requirement) and SB 1694 attempted to limit fees for attorneys in PIP lawsuits. Critics feared that the bills would discourage injured parties with legitimate claims. Ultimately, the bills died in the judiciary.
Whether we see reform or stricter enforcement in the future, the numbers don’t lie: everyone pays for auto insurance fraud. As attorneys, we believe that it is our responsibility to protect the rights of auto accident victims and to represent their interests in a moral and ethical manner.