Monday, April 11, 2011

Pinellas and Hillsborough County Step Up Investigation of Insurance Fraud

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses why Pinellas and Hillborough law enforcement are increasing their efforts around auto insurance fraud.

Issue:

Florida unfortunately holds a top spot in a number of categories the state would rather not be recognized for: unemployment, foreclosures, prescription drug trafficking, and now auto insurance fraud.

That’s right, Florida is now No. 1 nationally in auto insurance fraud.

Auto insurance fraud is the practice of staging auto accidents or submitting questionable claims to insurance companies to reap the benefits of the payouts.  In Tampa alone there were 487 staged wrecks last year.



Why This Matters To You:

With many Floridians still in financial turmoil, auto insurance fraud is tempting.  Some may consider that they are paying a premium to their auto insurance companies and haven’t filed a claim in many years.  Others may consider Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) law that provides $10,000 of medical coverage regardless of who is at fault.

Law abiding citizens also are affected by auto insurance fraud with Florida drivers paying on average $83 more in yearly premiums due to the costs of insurance companies covering fraudulent claims.

Auto insurance fraud is a serious crime in Florida with 667 people arrested for PIP fraud in just the last three years.  Many have been convicted, and can face up to 30 years in prison given the charges.

As Florida has been recognized as a hot spot for auto insurance fraud, Pinellas and Hillsborough law enforcement agencies have increased their efforts to identify and catch perpetrators.  Agents and officers are looking for the signs of fraud including minor damage to vehicles in staged accidents and brand new insurance policies being claimed against.  Meanwhile detectives and undercover agents may track the movements of someone who has claimed they were disabled through an auto accident.  Law enforcement is even using online social networking sites such as Facebook to track the behavior and movements of those claiming injuries to ascertain if they are fraudulent.

Increased scrutiny and focus will mean more arrests.  In January alone there were 114 arrests for PIP auto fraud in Florida.


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for auto insurance fraud contact a St. Petersburg Insurance Fraud Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending auto insurance fraud offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).