Dailies Discover PIP Fraud but Let 411-PAIN Off the Hook

A month after New Times published an exposé on 1-800-411-PAIN, a local referral service that seeks clients who have been in car accidents, South Florida's daily newspapers have woken up to the problem of personal injury protection (PIP) fraud.

Under Florida's "no fault" insurance law, every driver is required to carry PIP insurance, which can provide up to $10,000 in medical benefits and lost wages if you're in an accident. This weekend, the Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald devoted tremendous ink to the unscrupulous doctors, lawyers, and consumers who scam the system to collect those benefits.

The Herald focused on people who stage fake accidents. The Sentinel discussed the thousands of dollars in fees that lawyers can earn when fighting insurance companies over small PIP claims.But neither paper paid much attention to the most visible symptom of the PIP bonanza -- a barrage of billboards and TV commercials luring car accident victims to certain networks of doctors and lawyers.

411-PAIN, which calls itself a "medical and legal referral service," is now facing a class-action lawsuit accusing it of false advertising and misleading consumers.

"After 911, call 411!" the firm's commercials say. "Let them explain to you the $10,000 of injury and lost wage benefits you may be entitled to."

The suit alleges that clients who call 411-PAIN's hotline are sent to chiropractic clinics that burn through their PIP insurance by billing for multiple treatments, some of which are unnecessary or don't treat their injuries properly. Patients rack up thousands of dollars in medical debt and are then referred to personal injury lawyers who will sue to cover those medical expenses -- and collect hefty fees along the way.

411-PAIN has denied all the allegations in the suit.

Strangely, the Herald and the Sentinel articles never discuss this lawsuit. The Herald briefly notes that 411-PAIN is one of many referral services that advertise for clients.

"All of these companies are advertising for a reason, which is to get patients into their clinics and to attorneys. They are looking for legitimate cases,'' Lester Perling, attorney for 411-PAIN, told the Herald.

That's fine. But the ads also promise $10,000 in benefits, which end up in the pockets of doctors and lawyers in the 411-PAIN network, not consumers. 

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