Florida leads the country in staged automobile accidents, according to a National Insurance Crime Bureau study, and the worst areas are Orlando and Tampa Bay, not south Florida.

Florida has been number one among all the states for three straight years in staged accidents, Ron Poindexter, NICB director of operations for Florida, told the FIC Fraud Committee today while outlining the study.

The ranking is based on staged accidents and questionable auto insurance claims submitted to the NICB by its member companies. (Click here for a copy of the report: Staged Caused Accident Forecast)

Brooklyn, New York, is the number one city in the country in staged accidents, Poindexter said. But if results from Tampa and Orlando, Florida, are added together, these communities become the number one region and have double the staged accidents of Brooklyn.

Miami and Fort Lauderdale are no longer the Florida center for auto insurance fraud, FIC lobbyist Leonard Schulte, Foley Lardner, told the Fraud Committee. The new center is central Florida – Orlando and Tampa Bay. “It’s the same old stuff, but it is going on in new places,”

Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, is developing an insurance fraud package, which will tackle staged accidents, other PIP fraud and insurance fraud problems involving sinkholes, hurricane mitigation discount inspections and workers’ comp payroll fraud. A similar package is expected to be developed in the Senate, although it is not clear yet who will sponsor the package, Schulte said.

Recommendations have been submitted to Nelson by the Division of Insurance Fraud and by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, as well as others.

Proposals to address staged accidents include providing "traffic stop" authority to DIR investigators and expanding Florida statutes allowing the forfeiture of property used in a felony, including motor vehicles and clinics which are the site of insurance fraud.

The FIC Fraud Committee, chaired by Deb Cunningham, Florida Special Investigations Unit Manager, Nationwide, Allied, Titan, & Victoria Insurance Companies, will be reviewing proposals submitted to Nelson and looking for its own ideas to submit.

The committee, actually a subcommittee of the Auto Committee, is expected to be one of the most active FIC committees during the 2010 legislative session.