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New coalition seeks to rein in PIP fraud

A new coalition calling itself Gear Up Florida emerged Thursday and called for four specific reforms to reduce the epidemic of car accident insurance fraud in Florida. The group does not support elimination of the law requiring motorists to carry mandatory $10,000 of personal injury protection, known as PIP. 

Noting that the state leads the nation in staged car accidents and questionable claims, coalition members called for these steps: giving insurance companies more time to investigate suspicious claims; limiting attorney's fees in PIP (personal injury protection) cases; stricter oversight of pain clinics; and cracking down on the use of what the coalition called alternative medical treatments such as massage therapy.

"A few bad actors are preying on individuals and it's increasing costs for the entire insurance marketplace," said Katherine Webb of the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America.

Tammy Perdue, general counsel for Associated Industries of Florida, cited lax regulation of so-called pain clinics as a major factor in PIP fraud. Calls for stricter regulation may encounter some skepticism in an anti-regulation Legislature, but Perdue said:  "In this case, it's a matter of public safety."   

Coalition members include Associated Industries of Florida, the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America, the Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Elder Care Advocacy of Florida and the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. PIP fraud is likely to be a major issue in the 2012 legislative session that begins Jan. 10.

-- Steve Bousquet