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Avoid Summer Vehicular Insurance Fraud

You may have seen the Florida tourism ads in the last few weeks assuring people that the water and beaches are clean and oil free. (Frankly, they’re begging folks to come on down and spend money. Perfectly understandable.) What they aren’t saying, however, is that you may not want to drive down there — at least in South Florida and around Miami, in the Hialeah area, and in Tampa.

Staged vehicular accidents or intentional crashes to collect insurance money rose 58 percent in the state during 2009. In Tampa alone, the numbers quadruped from 487 to 1,999. (These figures were compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.)

In 2007 auto insurance fraud that extended to coverage for bodily injury cost the insurance industry as much as $6.8 billion. We all know where they made up those losses. In increased premiums or a bajillion little “processing” expenses tacked on policies and claims paperwork.

Currently State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co. and Geico are trying to identify doctors in Florida who are handling the largest number of claims to see if medical professionals are accessories in the upsurge of insurance fraud. It’s fairly likely they are, since Florida had more instances of fraud for bodily injury and personal injury protection than the dozen other states that allow accident reimbursement without proof of fault.

If you plan to drive this summer for your vacation, find out about the insurance laws in the states through which you will travel. If you’re driving a rental, don’t assume your existing coverage or the protection provided as part of your credit card benefits are all you need. Rental policies are rife with hidden charges like “loss of use” fees (a penalty for the time a damaged rental car cannot be used by the company to generate income.) Most personal insurance and credit card policies will pay for damage only.

Times are tough and there are plenty of people in Florida and across the country trying to make a buck on fraudulent car accidents. Don’t let yourself be a victim — either of an accident or of increased premiums on your own policy in the wake of that accident.

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