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Chapter 48.135 RCW

INSURANCE FRAUD PROGRAM

RCW Sections

48.135.005Purpose.
48.135.007When chapter not applicable.
48.135.010Definitions.
48.135.020Insurance fraud program established--Commissioner's powers and duties.
48.135.030Program operating costs.
48.135.040Program implementation -- Commissioner's authority -- Limited authority peace officers.
48.135.050Furnishing and disclosing insurance fraud knowledge and information.
48.135.060Disclosure of documents, materials, or other information -- Exemptions.
48.135.070Insurance company as victim -- Restitution.
48.135.080Required statement on all insurance applications and claim forms.
48.135.090Insurance fraud advisory board -- Membership.
48.135.100Program report -- Contents.
48.135.110Rules.
48.135.900Severability--2006 c 284.
48.135.901Effective date -- 2006 c 284.


48.135.005
Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter and sections 14 through 17, chapter 284, Laws of 2006 is to confront the problem of insurance fraud in this state by making a concerted effort to detect insurance fraud, reduce the occurrence of fraud through criminal enforcement and deterrence, require restitution of fraudulently obtained insurance benefits and expenses incurred by an insurer in investigating fraudulent claims, and reduce the amount of premium dollars used to pay fraudulent claims. The primary focus of the insurance fraud program is on organized fraudulent activities committed against insurance companies.

[2006 c 284 § 1.]




48.135.007
When chapter not applicable.

This chapter does not:

     (1) Preempt the authority or relieve the duty of any other general authority law enforcement agencies to investigate, examine, and prosecute suspected violations of law;

     (2) Prevent or prohibit a person from voluntarily disclosing any information concerning insurance fraud to any law enforcement agency other than the commissioner; or

     (3) Limit any of the powers granted elsewhere in this title to the commissioner to investigate and examine possible violations of the law and to take appropriate action.

[2006 c 284 § 9.]




48.135.010
Definitions.

The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter unless the context clearly requires otherwise.

     (1) "Insurance fraud" means an act or omission committed by a person who, knowingly, and with intent to defraud, commits, or conceals any material information concerning, one or more of the following:

     (a) Presenting, causing to be presented, or preparing with knowledge or belief that it will be presented to or by an insurer, insurance producer, or surplus line broker, false information as part of, in support of, or concerning a fact material to one or more of the following:

     (i) An application for the issuance or renewal of an insurance policy;

     (ii) The rating of an insurance policy or contract;

     (iii) A claim for payment or benefit pursuant to an insurance policy;

     (iv) Premiums paid on an insurance policy;

     (v) Payments made in accordance with the terms of an insurance policy; or

     (vi) The reinstatement of an insurance policy;

     (b) Willful embezzlement, abstracting, purloining, or conversion of moneys, funds, premiums, credits, or other property of an insurer or person engaged in the business of insurance; or

     (c) Attempting to commit, aiding or abetting in the commission of, or conspiracy to commit the acts or omissions specified in this subsection.

     The definition of insurance fraud is for illustrative purposes only under this chapter to describe the nature of the behavior to be reported and investigated, and is not intended in any manner to create or modify the definition of any existing criminal acts nor to create or modify the burdens of proof in any criminal prosecution brought as a result of an investigation under this chapter.

     (2) "Insurer" means an insurance company authorized under chapter
48.05 RCW, a health care service contractor registered under chapter 48.44 RCW, and a health care maintenance organization registered under chapter 48.46 RCW.

[2009 c 162 § 32; 2008 c 217 § 97; 2006 c 284 § 2.]

Notes:

     Effective date -- 2009 c 162: See note following RCW 48.03.020.

     Severability -- Effective date -- 2008 c 217: See notes following RCW 48.03.020.




48.135.020
Insurance fraud program established — Commissioner's powers and duties.

(1) There is established an insurance fraud program within the office of the insurance commissioner. The commissioner may employ supervisory, legal, and investigative personnel for the program, who must be qualified by training and experience in the areas of detection, investigation, or prosecution of fraud in which the insurance industry is a victim. The chief of the fraud program is a full-time position that is appointed by the commissioner. The chief serves at the pleasure of the commissioner. The commissioner shall provide office space, equipment, supplies, investigators, clerical staff, and other staff that are necessary for the program to carry out its duties and responsibilities under this chapter.

     (2) The commissioner may fund one or more state patrol officers to work with the insurance fraud program and the funding for the officers must be paid out of the budget of the insurance fraud program.

     (3) The commissioner may fund one or more assistant attorneys general and support staff to work with the insurance fraud program and the funding for the assistant attorneys general and support staff must be paid out of the budget of the insurance fraud program.

     (4) The commissioner may make grants to or reimburse local prosecuting attorneys to assist in the prosecution of insurance fraud. The grants must be paid out of the budget of the insurance fraud program. The commissioner may investigate and seek prosecution of crimes involving insurance fraud upon the request of or with the concurrence of the county prosecuting attorney of the jurisdiction in which the offense has occurred. Before such a prosecution, the commissioner and the county in which the offense occurred shall reach an agreement regarding the payment of all costs, including expert witness fees, and defense attorneys' fees associated with any such prosecution.

     (5) Staff levels for this program, until June 30, 2010, shall not exceed 8.0 full-time equivalents.

[2006 c 284 § 3.]




48.135.030
Program operating costs.

The annual cost of operating the fraud program is funded from the insurance commissioner's regulatory account under RCW 48.02.190 subject to appropriation by the legislature.

[2006 c 284 § 4.]




48.135.040
Program implementation — Commissioner's authority — Limited authority peace officers.

(1) The commissioner may:

     (a) Employ and train personnel to achieve the purposes of this chapter and to employ legal counsel, investigators, auditors, and clerical support personnel and other personnel as the commissioner determines necessary from time to time to accomplish the purposes of this chapter;

     (b) Initiate inquiries and conduct investigations when the commissioner has cause to believe that insurance fraud has been, is being, or is about to be committed;

     (c) Conduct independent examinations of alleged insurance fraud;

     (d) Review notices, reports, or complaints of suspected insurance fraud activities from federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies, persons engaged in the business of insurance, and any other person to determine whether the reports require further investigation;

     (e) Share records and evidence with federal, state, or local law enforcement or regulatory agencies, and enter into interagency agreements;

     (f) Conduct investigations outside this state. If the information the commissioner seeks to obtain is located outside this state, the person from whom the information is sought may make the information available to the commissioner to examine at the place where the information is located. The commissioner may designate representatives, including officials of the state in which the matter is located, to inspect the information on behalf of the commissioner, and the commissioner may respond to similar requests from officials of other states;

     (g) Administer oaths and affirmations, subpoena witnesses, compel their attendance, take evidence, and require the production of any books, papers, correspondence, memoranda, agreements, or other documents or records that the commissioner deems relevant or material to an inquiry concerning insurance fraud;

     (h) Report incidents of alleged insurance fraud disclosed by its investigations to the appropriate prosecutorial authority, including but not limited to the attorney general and to any other appropriate law enforcement, administrative, regulatory, or licensing agency;

     (i) Assemble evidence, prepare charges, and work closely with any prosecutorial authority having jurisdiction to pursue prosecution of insurance fraud; and

     (j) Undertake independent studies to determine the extent of fraudulent insurance acts.

     (2) The fraud program investigators who have obtained certification as a peace officer under RCW
43.101.095 have the powers and status of a limited authority Washington peace officer.

[2006 c 284 § 5.]




48.135.050
Furnishing and disclosing insurance fraud knowledge and information.

(1) Any insurer or licensee of the commissioner that has reasonable belief that an act of insurance fraud which is or may be a crime under Washington law has been, is being, or is about to be committed shall furnish and disclose the knowledge and information to the commissioner or the national insurance crime bureau, the national association of insurance commissioners, or similar organization, who shall disclose the information to the commissioner, and cooperate fully with any investigation conducted by the commissioner.

     (2) Any person that has a reasonable belief that an act of insurance fraud which is or may be a crime under Washington law has been, is being, or is about to be committed; or any person who collects, reviews, or analyzes information concerning insurance fraud which is or may be a crime under Washington law may furnish and disclose any information in its possession concerning such an act to the commissioner or to an authorized representative of an insurer that requests the information for the purpose of detecting, prosecuting, or preventing insurance fraud.

[2006 c 284 § 6.]




48.135.060
Disclosure of documents, materials, or other information — Exemptions.

(1) Documents, materials, or other information as described in subsection (3), (4), or both of this section are exempt from public inspection and copying under chapters *42.17 and 42.56 RCW. The commissioner is authorized to use such documents, materials, or other information in the furtherance of any regulatory or legal action brought as a part of the commissioner's official duties.

     (2) The commissioner:

     (a) May share documents, materials, or other information, including the documents, materials, or information subject to subsection (1) of this section, with (i) the national association of insurance commissioners and its affiliates and subsidiaries, (ii) regulatory and law enforcement officials of other states and nations, the federal government, and international authorities, (iii) the national insurance crime bureau, and (iv) an insurer with respect to whom the suspected fraudulent claim may be perpetrated;

     (b) May receive documents, materials, or information from (i) the national association of insurance commissioners and its affiliates and subsidiaries, (ii) regulatory and law enforcement officials of other states and nations, the federal government, and international authorities, (iii) the national insurance crime bureau, and (iv) an insurer with respect to whom the suspected fraudulent claim may be perpetrated and any such documents, materials, or information as described in subsection (3), (4), or both of this section are exempt from public inspection and copying; and

     (c) May enter into agreements governing the sharing and use of information consistent with this subsection.

     (3) Specific intelligence information and specific investigative records compiled by investigative, law enforcement, and penology agencies, the fraud program of the office of the insurance commissioner, and state agencies vested with the responsibility to discipline members of any profession, the nondisclosure of which is essential to effective law enforcement or for the protection of any person's right to privacy, are exempt under subsection (1) of this section.

     (4) Information revealing the identity of persons who are witnesses to or victims of crime or who file complaints with investigative, law enforcement, and penology agencies, or the fraud program of the office of the insurance commissioner, if disclosure would endanger any person's life, physical safety, or property, is exempt under subsection (1) of this section. If at the time a complaint is filed the complainant, victim, or witness indicates a desire for disclosure or nondisclosure, such desire shall govern.

     (5) No waiver of an existing privilege or claim of confidentiality in the documents, materials, or information may occur as a result of disclosure to the commissioner under this section or as a result of sharing documents, materials, or information as authorized in subsection (2) of this section.

     (6) Documents, materials, or other information that is in the possession of persons other than the commissioner that would otherwise not be confidential by law or privileged do not become confidential by law or privileged by providing the documents, materials, or other information to the commissioner.

[2006 c 284 § 7.]

Notes:

     *Reviser's note: Provisions in chapter 42.17 RCW relating to public disclosure were recodified in chapter 42.56 RCW by 2005 c 274.




48.135.070
Insurance company as victim — Restitution.

In a criminal prosecution for any crime under Washington law in which the insurance company is a victim, the insurance company is entitled to be considered as a victim in any restitution ordered by the court under RCW 9.94A.753, as part of the criminal penalty imposed against the defendant convicted for such a violation.

[2006 c 284 § 8.]




48.135.080
Required statement on all insurance applications and claim forms.

No later than six months after July 1, 2006, or when the insurer has used all its existing paper application and claim forms which were in its possession on July 1, 2006, whichever is later, all applications for insurance, and all claim forms regardless of the form of transmission provided and required by an insurer or required by law as condition of payment of a claim, must contain a statement, permanently affixed to the application or claim form, that clearly states in substance the following:

     "It is a crime to knowingly provide false, incomplete, or misleading information to an insurance company for the purpose of defrauding the company. Penalties include imprisonment, fines, and denial of insurance benefits."

     The lack of a statement required in this section does not constitute a defense in any criminal prosecution nor any civil action.

[2006 c 284 § 10.]




48.135.090
Insurance fraud advisory board — Membership.

The commissioner shall appoint an insurance fraud advisory board. The board shall consist of ten members. Five members shall be representatives from the insurance industry doing business in this state, at least one of which shall be from a Washington domestic insurer, two members shall represent consumers, one member shall represent the national insurance crime bureau or successor organization, one member shall represent prosecutors, and one member shall represent other law enforcement agencies. The members of the board serve four-year terms and until their successors are appointed and qualified. Three of the original members must be appointed to serve an initial term of four years, three must be appointed to serve an initial term of three years, two must be appointed to serve an initial term of two years, and two must be appointed to serve an initial term of one year. The members of the board receive no compensation. The board shall advise the commissioner and the legislature with respect to the effectiveness, resources allocated to the fraud program, the source of the funding for the program, and before June 30, 2010, if the staffing level restriction in RCW 48.135.020(5) should be renewed.

[2006 c 284 § 11.]




48.135.100
Program report — Contents.

The commissioner shall prepare a periodic report of the activities of the fraud program. The report shall, at a minimum, include information as to the number of cases reported to the commissioner, the number of cases referred for prosecution, the number of convictions obtained, the amount of money recovered, and any recommendations of the insurance advisory board.

[2006 c 284 § 12.]




48.135.110
Rules.

The commissioner may adopt rules to implement and administer this chapter.

[2006 c 284 § 13.]




48.135.900
Severability — 2006 c 284.

If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the act or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances is not affected.

[2006 c 284 § 19.]




48.135.901
Effective date — 2006 c 284.

This act takes effect July 1, 2006.

[2006 c 284 § 21.]