FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Workers’ compensation fraud is on the rise, and it can ultimately cost you more money.
Fox 13 reports that faking injuries is a common method of attempting to cheat the system, to the point where several bills addressing changes to workers’ compensation were filed in the state legislature as businesses face a 15 percent rate increase.
One example of such fraud was captured on camera in Fort Lauderdale, showing a sprinkler head falling on a woman’s desk. Sheyla Veronica White can be seen in the video picking it up, then hitting herself in the head with it to stage an injury at her work.
When her employer’s insurance company got suspicious about the incident, they consulted Florida’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services. That’s when detectives requested security camera footage, which proved White faked her injury.
White was convicted of workers’ compensation fraud, which is a third degree felony. She was sentenced to 18 months of probation for the crime, although she did not have to pay restitution since she was caught before any payments were made.
Lt. Doreen Rivera with the Fraud Division of the Florida Department of Financial Services spoke with Fox 13. She said that, while common, false injury claims are not the only abuses to the system. Businesses can also be culprits, she says, by falsifying employment numbers and work risk in order to lower their insurance costs.
“Not having it is a felony and not having it is serious. And why is it serious? Because if a worker gets injured on the job and there’s no coverage, they’re going to have to cover their own medical costs and those medical bills can, you know, be staggering,” Rivera explained told Fox 13.
Rivera says many of the major business abusers her department has found have been in the construction industry. She also notes that a new kind of fraud scheme appears to be on the rise.
“It’s well identified down south and now it’s emerging here. And that is basically when a business is created for the purposes for taking out a minimal workers’ comp policy,” she said.
They’ve discovered contractors paying a fee to “shell companies” in order to use their workers’ compensation insurance, rather than purchasing their own. It means the insurance company itself gets defrauded when many people are hidden on a policy designed for a small group.
How does that affect you?
“When they’re defrauded, eventually that cost is going to trickle to higher premiums to businesses and trickle down to consumers as well,” Rivera told Fox 13.
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