Suspicious Staged Accident Claims Soar in Florida

NICB Expanding Fraud Fighting Efforts in Tampa/Orlando Areas

DES PLAINES, Ill.  (Profitable.com)  The number of suspicious auto accidents that were staged or deliberately caused by criminals in Florida has increased dramatically in the past year.

A study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) of questionable claims (QCs) submitted by its insurance company members shows a 58 percent jump from 2008 to 2009.

“South Florida used to be the focal point of these deliberate crashes,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “While the Miami and Hialeah areas continue to show increased activity, the criminals have expanded their operation northward and Tampa is now at the epicenter of this crime trend.”

Wehrle said the number of questionable claims for all insurance fraud increased 15 percent from 2008 to 2009 in Florida. But the 58 percent jump in the staged/caused accident category shows that criminals are taking advantage of the state’s no-fault auto accident coverage.

“Previous industry studies have shown that among the 12 states that have no-fault coverage, Florida had the highest rates of fraud and buildup in both bodily injury (BI) and personal injury protection (PIP). The criminals who are staging and deliberately causing these accidents have been doing so because they can file claims for alleged injuries and collect big payments with little risk of getting caught.

“We are working hard to put a stop to that. Working with our insurance company and law enforcement partners, we created a Major Medical Fraud Task Force in South Florida in 2002 to focus on this type of insurance fraud. That cooperative effort has resulted in numerous successes and the criminals are feeling the heat. That’s one of the reasons they are moving up the state to the Tampa and Orlando areas. So we will soon be opening another Major Medical Fraud Task Force in Tampa to combat the issue there.”

NICB just began a public awareness campaign in the Tampa area, using billboard and bus shelter ads, as well as radio spots to urge people who suspect a staged accident scheme to call 1-800-TEL-NICB or text their information to TIP411, keyword “fraud.'”

The NICB report, which is available here shows Tampa with 487 QCs related to staged/caused accidents in 2009, a 290 percent increase over the previous year. Miami had 258, an 11 percent increase, and Orlando had 240, a 24 percent increase.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through information analysis, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by nearly 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $319 billion in insurance premiums in 2009, or more than 78 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 93 percent ($151 billion) of the nation’s personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.