Year after year, the New York State Senate has passed a simple, straightforward package of bills that would help combat auto insurance fraud, put hundreds of millions of dollars back in the pockets of New York's families, save lives and make our roads safer.
The Buffalo News even called our legislation "a powerful trio of bills to combat con men who have cost New York drivers more than $1 billion."
Unfortunately, those same bills are routinely blocked by the Assembly Democrat Majority, and never get enacted into law.
The Republican-led Senate is leading the fight to target and eliminate auto fraud in the state's no-fault insurance system, an epidemic that drives up auto insurance rates and leaves hard-working New Yorkers paying among the highest costs in the country.
How does this happen? Auto fraud is perpetuated by well-organized fraud rings made up of unscrupulous drivers, doctors and lawyers.
These con men and women stage elaborate accident scenes, fake injuries, submit bogus medical claims and file frivolous lawsuits every single day. These intricate scams result in increased insurance premiums, but they also have a human toll.
A few years ago, a 71-year-old woman from New York City died when her car was hit during the commission of one of these phony accidents. How many more injuries or deaths can be attributed to these scams?
While many of these staged auto accidents have occurred in Brooklyn, auto fraud isn't just a downstate problem. It affects every New Yorker who owns or drives a car. Local police and FBI investigators have broken up accident rings in every major upstate city, including Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse and Utica.
In addition, accidents involving downstate drivers dramatically increase premiums for all of us. According to a recent report from the state's Department of Financial Services, New Yorkers pay a whopping 53 percent above the national average for auto insurance, most of which is directly attributed to fraud.
It's time for the Assembly to get on board and support these three common-sense bills that have already passed the Senate.
One would make it a felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison, for anyone to stage an accident with the intent to commit insurance fraud. A second bill would make it illegal to act as a so-called "runner" (someone who directs accident victims to crooked lawyers and doctors); and the third would allow insurance companies to retroactively cancel policies taken out by people who commit auto fraud.
The Assembly Democratic Majority should allow a vote on our auto insurance fraud legislation so we can put these important reforms in place to protect drivers and let them keep more of their hard-earned money.
Dean G. Skelos is majority leader of the New York State Senate.