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State Report Says Fraud Down In 'No Fault' Claims


A 2012 effort to reform the state's "no-fault" auto insurance system has halted the growth of fraud in the system, according to a new state report. But the numbers released Monday are still considered too preliminary to show the full impact of the law.

The report by the Office of Insurance Regulation found that since the law (HB 119) went into place on Jan. 1, 2013, there has been a drop in the number of personal-injury protection claims filed and dollars sought.

Meanwhile, the report indicates that claims under other coverage types, such as bodily injury and uninsured motorist, have gone up.

"Overall, there was limited data available to determine the true impact of HB 119," a release from the Office of Insurance Regulation said. "However, the data call analysis reveals the law has had a major impact on the personal auto market and changed the trajectory of trends being seen prior to its enactment."

The 2012 law, considered a last-ditch effort to maintain the no-fault system, set benchmarks for insurers to lower rates on so-called PIP coverage. It required people involved in crashes to seek treatment within 14 days and allowed up to $10,000 in benefits for emergency medical conditions, while putting a $2,500 cap on non-emergency conditions.

Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater pushed for the law, saying that fraud, primarily in the Tampa and Miami regions, had resulted in the cost of auto-insurance coverage to spike for Floridians.

The report said the average medical cost paid through PIP claims has dropped 14 percent statewide from 2011 to the first three quarters of 2014, with the average payment down 28.7 percent in South Florida in the same time.

Dean Targets Changes In Utility Bills

After wading into a controversy last year involving Duke Energy Florida, state Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, filed a proposal Monday that would place restrictions on changes in utility billing cycles.

The controversy stemmed from an effort by Duke to redesign meter-reading routes, which led to changes in billing cycles. Those changes created higher-than usual monthly utility bills for many customers.

Dean's proposal (SB 230), which is similar to a measure (HB 81) filed by Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, would require the Florida Public Service Commission to approve changes in utility billing cycles at least one month before they take effect. The commission would have to consider the "public impact" of the changes and could not approve more than a seven-day extension.

Also under the bill, an increase in a customer's electric usage because of an extension could not result in being charged a higher rate.

Bill Would Aid Man Wrongfully Incarcerated In Theft

A House Republican on Monday filed a proposal that would provide $350,000 to a man who was wrongfully incarcerated in a Polk County case that involved charges of uttering a forged instrument and grand theft.

The proposal (HB 3509), filed by Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, would compensate Clinton Treadway, who was arrested in 2005 and was released in 2012 after a circuit judge vacated the judgment and sentence. Albritton's bill is identical to a measure (SB 46) filed by Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring.

"The Legislature acknowledges that the state's system of justice yielded an imperfect result that had tragic consequences in this case, and … as a result of his physical confinement and the deprivation of the exercise of freedom to which all innocent citizens are entitled, Clinton Treadway suffered significant damages that are unique to him,'' the bill said.

Under the proposal, the state would pay for an annuity on behalf of Treadway.

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