Auto insurance fraud has been in the news a lot lately. Last month, the Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald published lengthy stories about the fraudsters who stage fake car accidents and the lawyers who earn hefty fees fighting insurance companies over personal injury claims. Yesterday, the Palm Beach Post reported that Florida leads the nation in questionable claims for staged accidents. And of course, New Times kicked off the party in December with an exposé about the 1-800-411-PAIN Referral Service, a network of chiropractors and lawyers that solicits clients who have been injured in accidents.
All these articles focus on flaws in Florida's "no fault" insurance law, which requires drivers to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. The law was designed to cut down on expensive legal fights over who should pick up the tab for medical treatment after a crash. Your insurance is supposed to cover your injuries, regardless of who caused the accident.
But the law -- on the books since the '70s -- has come under near-constant criticism. Every few years, various groups argue that it's in dire need of reform. Unscrupulous doctors, lawyers,
or consumers have found ways to exploit the system and pocket the $10,000 in insurance cash. And according to the insurance industry, fraud leads to rising premiums.
In 2007, the state Legislature considering ending the PIP requirement. But some doctors and lawyers argued that it's vital, because many people who are injured in an accident don't have any other kind of health insurance. Taxpayers would be stuck covering the cost of their treatment if uninsured patients didn't have $10,000 in PIP benefits.
And so the debate goes on and on. The Legislature is again expected to discuss PIP reforms this year. Ever wonder why this issue keeps coming up? Of course, it impacts all drivers in the state. But it also involves some of the biggest lobbyists in Tallahassee: doctors, lawyers, and insurance companies.
For your reading pleasure, we've tallied the legislative lobbying crews for some of the most influential groups involved.
Florida Chiropractic Association: 8 lobbyists
Florida Justice Association (trial lawyers): 10 lobbyists
Florida Insurance Council: 14 lobbyists
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Florida Hospital Association: 22 lobbyists
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