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Tampa takes over as staged accident capital

Posted on June 30, 2010 12:00 AM EST

The operations director for the National Insurance Crime Bureau says the epidemic of insurance fraud and staged accidents has taken the lead in Tampa, Florida. Staged accident cases arise when individuals become involved in intentional car crashes with the intent to file false claims with insurance companies. In a typical staged accident or insurance fraud case, an individual sets up a staged accident between willing participants who agree to become involved in car crash at pre-set time and location. The police arrive and fill out an accident report. The drivers and passengers of the vehicles typically go to a sham clinic that rarely if ever provides treatment for these individuals. The clinic bills the insurance companies under the policies who in turn provide monetary kickbacks to the participants in the staged accident. Clinic owners, chiropractors, physician's assistants, accident planners and organizers, drivers and passengers have all been charged criminally throughout the State Florida. Miami criminal defense attorneys have represented all of these types or participants in staged accident cases.

Miami used to hold the title of the staged accident capital, but has given way to Tampa. Miami-Dade County created a task force in an effort to quell the problem. In fact, the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office has a specialized division with prosecutors who do nothing else but charge and prosecute these types of insurance fraud cases. These efforts have apparently chased off the staged accident cases to more fertile ground. Tampa has seen a 209% increase in the number of stage accident cases. Nationwide, Tampa is now only second to New York City. As a result, Tampa has now created its own task force to fight the problem. The fraud is so out of control that the State of Florida is the home to $100 million dollars in false claims a year. The states with the highest levels of fraud are those that have no fault coverage like Florida's PIP (personal injury protection).

Staged accident and insurance fraud crimes are charged under Florida Statute 817.234. The statues were modified a couple of years back in order to send a message to all those involved in insurance fraud. As a result, organizers and participants in a staged accident case face a two year minimum mandatory prison sentence if the prosecution can prove that they knowingly planned, organized or participated in an intentional motor vehicle crash. Insurance fraud and staged accident cases are built by the prosecution from the bottom up. Investigators will seek to first interview the drivers and passengers to get them to provide information regarding the organizer and the sham clinics. Providing information to law enforcement investigators may or may not preclude cooperating participants from prosecution. If you are contacted by law enforcement regarding a staged accident, seek counsel from a criminal defense lawyer experienced in defending these types of cases.

If a participant desires to speak to a detective regarding a case, it is imperative to receive an immunity letter and a guarantee of non-prosecution. Otherwise, statements given can and will be used to prosecute a case with possibility of the cooperating witness receiving no benefit. If an individual decides that this is the proper course of action, they should retain a criminal lawyer to make sure their rights are protected prior to speaking with the authorities.

Tampa Speeds by Miami as Florida's New Capital for Staged Auto Accidents, St. Petersburg Times, June 29, 2010.
Categories: Fraud