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Crippled by fear? Senior cop says insurance companies afraid to provide information to end scam

Published:Sunday | June 30, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Uncooperative insurance companies are being blamed for the failure of the police to clamp down on the personal-injury scam which has surfaced in recent years.

Head of the police Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, says the insurance companies have failed to provide investigators with much-needed information.

"The scam is something that has been happening for a long time and we have been aware of it for more than six months now, but we are not getting cooperation from the insurance companies. Ask them and they will tell you that they are afraid to cooperate with the police," claimed Lewis.

"How you mean they are afraid? Remember that it is a big scam and persons don't want to expose themselves. They have told me too. And, because they have refused to cooperate, the thing has taken root.

"The police can do so much and no more. When we go to the insurance companies and ask them for cooperation, if they cooperate then you can deal with the issue, but if they refuse to cooperate, saying that they are afraid and they don't want anybody to come shoot them or anybody to come and kill them, then that is a different matter (and) you won't be getting anything," declared Lewis in his customary no-holds-barred approach.

Levy sceptical

But Peter Levy, vice-president of the Insurance Association of Jamaica, is sceptical of the claim that companies are refusing to provide information to the police,

According to Levy, he would love to hear the specific cases where the police have encountered a reluctance by the insurance companies to cooperate.

"Let's address it at the specific level and not in terms of broad conclusions," said Levy, as he conceded that the names of several persons, including lawyers and doctors, keep coming up.

However, Levy argued that passing those names to the police is an issue with which insurance companies have to be careful.

"Quite legitimately, a doctor can be a specialist in a type of injury. So it's very hard to tell just from frequency that something is going on," said Levy.

He said insurance companies have their own systems of checks and balances, but they operate in the context that injury claims are not a majority of the claims they handle.

Lewis had told our news team that the ballooning scam is a multimillion-dollar operation involving a number of doctors and lawyers.

According to the senior officer, the police cannot bring down the scam without the help of the insurance companies.

"As a matter of fact, we have gotten information and I spoke to them about it and it is just that. We can't take any action when we are not getting any cooperation," Lewis insisted.

"The information that I have, which is authentic, is that you have people who stage the accidents (then) they go to these lawyers who are experts in the scamming. Usually, they give people between $1 million and $2 million. They have their doctors who for one person they pay between $250,000 and $300,000. It is a big thing," Lewis explained.

The senior cop also confirmed that the epicentre of the scam is located in St Catherine.

"That is a fact. Certain lawyers and doctors in St Catherine are involved. We have their names but I cannot move unless we have evidence, and I cannot call their names because if I call their names I can be sued. If we get cooperation from the insurance companies so we can arrest them, then their names will be called," he said.

"We have gotten information where, especially with regard to minibuses, there is a crash with passengers and you might know that you have 10 persons in the bus, and all of a sudden all 15 or 20 more persons just come lying on the ground and they are groaning more than those who were in the vehicle. You hear me a tell you," Lewis added.