Experts say staged accidents cost each Florida driver an extra $49 in 2010

Posted by on Jul 26, 2011 | 0 comments

As reported by ABC Action News

TAMPA – Have your car insurance bills been higher in recent years? Fraud investigators, politicians, and the insurance industry agree: the booming crime of staged auto accidents may be partially to blame.

“It is driving up the cost of auto insurance and all drivers are paying for it,” said Lynne McChristian of the Insurance Information Institute, which represents the insurance industry.

McChristian says part of the reason the average driver is paying more for car insurance is because of staged accidents. She says Florida drivers in 2010 spent an extra $49 each to cover the cost of staged accidents.

Hilllsborough County holds the dubious honor of having the most suspected staged crashs in Florida.

“Florida drivers are paying more than they should for automobile insurance coverage because automobile insurers are paying more than they should for claims,” McChristian said.

Florida is one of only a dozen states with a no-fault law. That means no matter who caused a crash, car accident victims can receive up to $10,000 for medical costs.

“Personal injury protection was started for the right reasons. Unfortunately, the bad actors have figured out a way to make money off the system,” said Rep. Jim Boyd.

Local law enforcement investigators say teams of drivers, working with a handful of unscrupulous clinics, came up with a way to cheat the system.  Video provided by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office shows how an actual staged accident works. In the surveillance video, a car slams into another vehicle. Immediately, people pack into the crashed car. Each one of them can claim to be hurt, and each one of them can rack up $10,000.

With 5 or 6 passengers in each car, just one of these staged accidents could earn up to $100,000 for medical costs. There may not be any actual medical treatment — the clinics, drivers, and passengers simply split the money.

29-year old Reinaldo Marin hasn’t been arrested or charged with a crime, but accident reports reveal he’s been in twelve car accidents since 2007.  In nine of the crashes, he was the driver. The average driver has only one accident every 10 years, according to Allstate.

Marin is now being sued by his insurance company. They claim he didn’t show up for eight medical exams by the insurance company’s doctors.

With the help of an interpreter, we asked Marin to explain his 12 traffic accidents over the last four years. 

“Why that question?” he asked, in Spanish.  Marin quickly got defensive.  “I have nothing to say to you. I have a lawyer for that,” Marin said.

When asked if the accidents were fake and he was breaking the law, he did answer.  “No, no, I’m not breaking the law,” he said.

Marin wouldn’t answer any further questions, and immediately drove off.

“That’s definitely a red flag,” said National Insurance Crime Bureau agent Dennis Russo, after seeing the crash reports obtained by the I-Team.

Law enforcement is putting more attention on shutting down staged crash rings. Rep. Jim Boyd says to keep insurance costs from running wild, Florida needs new laws to close the loopholes. Boyd hopes to propose new legislation next year. Efforts to address the problem in the past have been unsuccessful.

“It’s a huge problem that we’ve just got to solve, because it’s going to cost more and more,” Rep. Boyd said.

NICB agent Russo says in some cases, staged accidents can involve innocent victims. The perpetrators can have a car intentionally box in an unsuspecting driver and force an accident. He said there are ways to spot a fake accident. Seconds after the crash, you will see many people near the cars. Most of them will try to jump into the cars to appear as if they were hurt in the crash.

There may also be a tow truck in the vicinity right away. Russo says in some cases, tow truck drivers may be in on the staged accident.

Russo also says in many cases, the cars have pre-existing damage. It’s possible an actual accident may not even occur, but the cars will be staged that way to make it appear as if an accident happened.

Participants try to avoid having any witnesses nearby, but if you suspect you’ve witnessed a staged accident or you have been a victim, contact local law enforcement right away

Comments are closed.