Florida’s property insurance market is one of the toughest for homeowners. The state is at constant risk of hurricane damage, which can easily cost millions of dollars of damage to homes – an expense insurers are forced to take on, translating into higher costs for homeowners. With limited insurance carriers operating in the state, it’s no wonder that these companies charge a premium for their premiums.
Another problem raising insurance costs for consumers in the state is insurance fraud. It’s one thing to file a fake insurance claim, but another to stage a burning at a property to claim recompense. Fraud costs insurers much money, forcing them to charge higher prices the more customers abuse the system.
Setting fire to property intending to defraud an insurer is a separate criminal offense from regular insurance fraud in Florida. Those accused of the offense potentially face multiple penalties.
Burning to defraud is a felony
Under Florida law, any person who intentionally sets fire or tries to set fire to a property intending to defraud or injure an insurance company is guilty of a felony of the third degree. Persons who aid another in burning property to commit insurance fraud are also guilty of this offense.
A conviction for this offense leads to up to five years of imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.
Insurance fraud is a separate, additional offense
As mentioned earlier, burning to defraud an insurer is a separate offense from making false and fraudulent insurance claims. Thus, anyone charged with the former will likely also face another charge for the latter, especially if they’ve already filed a claim for the destroyed property.
The conviction and penalties for a person found guilty of insurance fraud depend on the value of the property involved in the offense:
- Worth less than $20,000: The offense is a felony of the third degree.
- Worth $20,000 or more, less than $100,000: The offense is a felony of the second degree, which leads to up to 15 years of imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.
- Worth more than $100,000: The offense is a felony of the first degree, which leads to up to 30 years of imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.
So, how serious of a crime is burning property to defraud an insurer? It’s severe enough that it counts as two separate offenses; the penalties on conviction can also combine. Fraud is never worth it, and those charged with the offense should consider their defense in court or face years of prison time.