'Accident Line' accused of fraud

Published: 2010-11-10 21:41:14
Author: LORA PABST | Minneapolis Star Tribune | November 1, 2010

In its quest for victims of car wrecks, a Minneapolis company called Linea Latina de Accidentes sponsors bikini contests, grocery giveaways and street festivals. The "Latino Accident Line" promises to dispatch an interpreter to help Spanish-speaking accident victims navigate the medical and legal bureaucracy.

Allstate Insurance Co. and several other insurance companies have a different description of Linea Latina. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, the insurance companies claim that Linea Latina, two Minnesota chiropractors and a Florida man orchestrated an elaborate insurance fraud that hounded accident victims into making phony claims and cost insurers over $1.6 million.

Eric Tostrud, a lawyer who represents Linea Latina, chiropractors Kristi Zimmerman and Scott Allan and consultant Alex Prigoda, said in a statement that the lawsuit is merely an attempt by insurers to crush a legitimate business that helps people gain access to health care and other services. He referred to an April letter from the state Board of Chiropractic Examiners that indicated a state investigation into Linea Latina had not resulted in any disciplinary action.

Whatever its outcome, the lawsuit is the latest chapter in a debate over how far health care providers can go in getting business from accident victims. State laws put strict limits on how chiropractors can contact accident victims, but Linea Latina says it only works with customers who ask for help. Linea Latina doesn't charge its customers because chiropractors, mechanics and others pay the company to bring them business.

Companies such as Linea Latina trouble the Minnesota Chiropractic Association, which has supported legislation to stop "ambulance chasers."

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