FORT MYERS, Fla. Fraud could be behind a recent surge in auto insurance rates.
Rates are up 21.4 percent since 2015, according to Florida Office of Insurance Regulation data.
Insurance agent Cindy Palmquist of The Thompson Agency puts the blame squarely on staged crashes, a practice in which drivers maneuver other motorists into minor crashes and claim major injuries and damage.
“Until Florida can figure out how to stop this, unfortunately we’re all gonna pay the price,” Palmquist said.
The crashes result in large insurance payouts for those responsible for the fraud. That cost is passed on to consumers.
The practice is difficult to fight, Palmquist said. Fraudsters are slick and often conspire.
“There’s just not enough attorneys and not enough money,” she said. “… They teach people how to do this, and that’s the scary thing.”
A typical case involves a car full of passengers that pulls in front of another and stops suddenly. The driver and the passengers in the car that stopped will all claim injury, whether or not they’re actually hurt, Palmquist explained.
“All of a sudden they get in an accident and there’s five people in the car,” she said. “And they’re all injured. And it was a minor accident. They were going maybe 5 or 10 mph.”
Drivers who believe they may have been hit by someone staging a crash should take photos showing how many people were in the other car and try to remember who was driving, the National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends.