As I’ve previously discussed in a blog, Florida is the worst state in the country for insurance fraud and staged auto accidents. Tampa has recently overtaken Miami as the worst city in the world for staged accidents.
Unfortunately, this is not a new problem. Florida legislators have been trying to resolve this issue for years. In fact in 2007 the Florida speaker of the house threatened to do away with mandatory PIP coverage if antifraud provisions were not added. There were measures put in to place at the time, however they accomplished nothing.
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The new bills have the same lofty goals of eliminating fraud in the system. If enacted they will increase the penalty for medical providers who participate in the fraud. In addition, they will put a cap on the amount of attorneys fees that can be awarded when a claimant proves the insurance company wrongfully denied their benefits; require law enforcement to conduct more in depth investigations of auto accidents; and give insurance companies more power in investigating suspicious claims.
Examples of the additional powers given to insurance companies include giving them additional time to investigate claims for medical care before deciding whether to make payment and giving them more tools for conducting their investigation. One tool involves what has been dubbed an “independent medical examination”. The truth is there is nothing independent about the examination. The insurance company usually hires retired doctors who do not see patients on their own. Their only source of income is referrals from the insurance companies to evaluate whether or not the insurance companies should continue paying for car accident victims’ medical care. The new bills would give the insurance companies more power to utilize “independent medical exams” to cut off benefits and refuse to pay for medical care caused by an auto accident.
Whether these bills have the desired effect of substantially reducing PIP fraud remains to be seen. However, my experience as a Tampa car accident attorney makes me very concerned that if the new laws are passed in their current form insurance companies will use them to deny legitimate claims. Furthermore, because the bills limit the amount of attorney fees when a claimant proves their benefits were wrongfully denied, they will also discourage attorneys from taking legitimate PIP cases.