Claims Commandment VIII – Thou Shall Not Suffer Fraud to Succeed
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Insurance fraud in the U.S. is epidemic. Insurance fraud continually takes more money each year than it did the last from the insurance buying public. Estimates of the extent of insurance fraud in the United States used to range from $87 billion to $308 billion every year. Recently, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud changed its long-held estimate of $80 billion a year to $308 billion a year in 2022.
In truth no one really knows the extent of insurance fraud because most insurance fraud schemes succeed without the insurer even suspecting that it is being defrauded.
Insurers and government backed pseudo-insurers can only estimate the extent they lose to fraudulent claims. No one will ever place an exact number on the amount lost to insurance fraud but everyone who has looked at the issue know – whether based on their heart, their gut or empirical fact of convictions for the crime of insurance fraud – that the number is enormous. When insurers and governments put on a serious effort to reduce the amount of insurance fraud the number of claims presented to insurers and the pseudo-insurers drops logarithmically.
What Do The Results of the Effort Against Fraud Really Show?
Insurance fraud prosecutions and investigations are anemic. What the reports do not tell is that most of those convicted were sentenced to probation. Few made full restitution and those who served time were few and far between. Insurance criminals are laughing at the insurance industry, the police agencies, the Fraud Divisions and the prosecutors. If they are one of the few criminally convicted, they face an average sentence of only five years’ probation and 60 days in jail. Jail time is usually served on weekends so that the convicted fraud perpetrators can still ply their fraudulent trade on weekdays.
For insurance fraud to be prosecuted the insurer must do the work to complete a thorough investigation that can be presented to a prosecutor because police, federal investigators, prosecutors and even Fraud Division investigators will do nothing until the case is presented to them in detail by an insurer. In fact, most states have statutes that compel insurers to maintain a Special Investigative Unit (SIU) to investigate fraud claims and provide the results of that investigation to the state Department of Insurance.
Every person involved in the business of insurance must understand that insurance fraud is the orphan child of the criminal justice system. Insurance fraud will never be totally defeated. It will be reduced and may be made unprofitable to the perpetrators when the public and prosecutors recognize that insurance fraud is a serious problem that effects their own financial condition.
Everyone involved in the business of insurance and everyone who buys insurance must make it clear that they are angry with what is happening to their insurance premium dollar. When I, and everyone who has ever purchased a policy of insurance, hear that $300 out of every $1,000 we pay in premium goes to a criminal we should all want to scream out the window, as did the character in “Network” — “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
What is Fraud?
Insurance fraud is a tort, a civil wrong and a crime. Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, defines fraud as:
An intentional perversion of the truth for the purpose of inducing another in reliance upon it to part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right; a false representation of a matter of fact, whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed, which deceives and is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it to his legal injury.
In simple language, fraud can be defined as a lie told for the purpose of obtaining money from another who believes the lie to be true. Civil insurance fraud exists if an insured makes a representation to the insurer that the insured knows is false; conceals from the insurer a fact he or she knows is material to the insurer; makes a promise he or she does not intend to keep; and makes a misrepresentation on which the insurer relies in issuing the policy, that results in the insurer incurring damage.
The claims professional should be aware of the limitations of the criminal statute in the state where he or she practices.
The beginning of a thorough insurance fraud investigation is the interview. The interview can be informal, it can be recorded with an audio recording device, it can be recorded with a handwritten statement signed by the witness, or it can be recorded by a certified shorthand reporter under oath. The interview is a structured conversation. It is not an interrogation. It is not the stuff of spy films, police investigations, or prisoner of war camps. Interviews are everywhere. Interviewing is an art. Use of methods similar to those used by scientists conducting experiments is a more accurate description of interviewing.
Whenever fraud is suspected it is the duty of the insurer, its claim staff and its special investigation unit (SIU) to conduct a thorough investigation. If a preponderance of the evidence gathered reveals that a fraud has been committed: that there was a material misrepresentation or a concealment of a material fact, made with the intent to deceive the insurer, that the insurer was actually deceived, and that the insurer was damaged by the deception, the claim must be rejected.
If a preponderance of the evidence does not exist or establishes there was no fraud the claim should be paid.
If you wish to know everything there is to know about insurance fraud, Barry Zalma has totally rewritten his seminal book on insurance fraud in two volumes. Volume I is Available as a Kindle book; Available as a Hardcover; Available as a Paperback Volume II is Available as a Kindle book; Available as a Hardcover; Available as a Paperback
(c) 2022 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.Subscribe and receive videos limited to subscribers of Excellence in Claims Handling at locals.com https://zalmaoninsurance.locals.com/subscribe.Subscribe to Excellence in Claims Handling at https://barryzalma.substack.com/welcome.
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