N.Y. Sees Drop in Auto Insurance Fraud, Injury Suits

The number of suspected automobile insurance fraud cases dropped across New York last year by 17 percent, according to a new report.

New York State Insurance Department officials said fraud cases, which for years have been blamed for the state’s skyrocketing car-insurance rates, totaled 14,328 in 2004, the New York Post reported.

In 2003, there were 17,253 fraud cases reported by insurance companies, state officials said.

Also in decline last year was the average cost of personal-injury claims in New York, according to the Post report.

While the average cost nationally in 2004 was $7,060 per claim, the state’s average was $5,867, marking the first time in years that New York’s cost was lower than the national average.

“Things are looking up, finally,” said Bernard Bourdeau, president of the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud.

Insurance rates in New York are the second highest in the nation behind New Jersey.

Over the last year, 19 insurance companies have dropped their rates in New York. Officials credit a crackdown on fraud that started three years ago for the drop in suspected cases.

Insurance Superintendent Howard Mills said he’s not sure whether rate reductions in the state have gone far enough to push New York down the list of most-expensive states to insure a car.

Consumer advocate Russ Haven of the New York Public Interest Research Group said while the state is moving in the right direction, rate reductions have not kept pace with a drop in insurance-company payouts.

Mills, however, said he expects more rate reductions in the future.

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