If you recently received an auto insurance bill, you probably got an unwelcome surprise.
Car insurance rates are skyrocketing in Tampa Bay, which the industry is calling a “hot spot” for a high number of claims.
Tampa bay’s traffic is terrible. I-4 is “the deadliest highway in America.” And in Pinellas County, 30,000 crashes killed more than 100 people last year.
It’s a danger Vincent Guess knows well. In October, a driver made an illegal turn in front of him.
“I T-Boned the guy. And basically totaled both vehicles,” he said.
The other driver got a ticket, but Guess is paying the price.
“I’ve got three weeks of work I’ve missed. I’ve got thousands of dollars-worth of medical bills, I’ve got no vehicle,” said Guess.
Florida is a no-fault state and the other driver was under-insured.
His own insurance company has refused his initial claim because they say he failed to tell them when another non-driver moved into his home, who was also injured in the crash.
“Two in five drivers carry state minimum limits, which is $10,000. And one in five drivers carries no insurance at all,” said Karyn Roeling, president of the Seitbert Insurance Agency in Tampa.
Roeling says crashes are more frequent, largely due to texting and driving.
Cars cost more to fix, and medical bills are rising, leading to higher rates.
“We’ve seen up to 30, 35 percent increase on an auto policy for somebody who’s been with a carrier for a long time, has a good driving record,” said Roeling.
“I was livid. Absolutely livid,” said Diane Ellison.
Ellison’s insurance company canceled her policy after another driver backed into her car at a rest stop.
“It says on the letter do not ever contact us on this. Our decision is final,” she said, stating she had been with the same insurance carrier for over 30 years, prior to the latest accident.
“Small fender-benders, where there’s maybe $800 damage to the car, could end up easily being a $20,000 claim, where five years ago it would have been an $800 claim,” said Roeling.
Roeling says lawyers, doctors and injury referral services, who spend millions on advertising, drive up the costs of claims.
“I can’t drive one mile without hearing multiple ads on the radio or seeing billboards on the street advertising for basically if you’ve been in an auto accident, call us,” she said.
Insurance fraud is also a big problem
In March, a federal grand jury indicted three Florida chiropractic clinic operators on an alleged PIP fraud scheme involving staged accidents, illegal solicitations and kick-backs.
And experts say that kind of abuse can drive your bill up by about $250 per year.
So what can drivers do?
“I would call their agent and go through it with them to make sure that they’re getting all the discounts that they should for their policy,” said Roeling.
You should also discuss changing insurers.
One thing Roeling says drivers shouldn’t skimp on is uninsured motorist coverage.
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