Accidents are not to be seen as an opportunity to make money, but as an occurrence which puts the lives of others at risk. It may seem like insanity for one to purposely cause an accident, but the fact is that staged-car accidents have grown increasingly more common and elaborate in their attempts to collect large amounts of money from insurance companies. Understanding accident fraud not only helps to understand how to avoid those seeking fraud, but also gives a better understanding of the stigma which innocent auto-accident victims must fight against when they are pursuing a real and honest claim.
Types of Insurance Fraud
Fraud is, in it’s best light, dishonest, and in its worst light, criminal. Soft Fraud, according to the Utah State Insurance Fraud Division (IFD), is as simple as telling a white lie about an accident that has unexpectedly occurred. Drivers are most worried about Hard Fraud, where “Someone deliberately fakes an accident, injury, theft, arson or other loss to collect money illegally from insurance companies. Crooks often act alone, but increasingly, organized crime rings stage large schemes that steal millions of dollars.”
Although IFD sorts cases into these two categories, hard fraud for motor accident claims can be achieved through an inexhaustible amount of methods. Below is a list of commonly staged car accidents, according to dmv.org.
Staged Car Accidents
The T-Bone Accident: These car accidents most often occur at an intersection. The scam artist will wait for a driver to enter the intersection and then the scammer will jet into the other’s car, causing a T-bone collision. Often times, this hard fraud crime will include another who poses as a witness and claims that the accident was caused by the victim.
The Wave: In heavy traffic, a scam artist will wait for a car at his or her side to signal a lane change. After the scam artist waves for the other driver to go ahead, he or she will gun ahead, causing a collision. In the police report, the scam artist will then deny ever giving a wave to the other driver to proceed.
Swoop and Stop: Often on high speed roads, a scam artist will pull in front of another driver’s car and abruptly stop, causing the victim to rear-end the scammer. Often times, another individual is involved in the fraud by intentionally driving along side the victim, thus blocking his or her ability to swerve out of the way.
Click here for a video from ABC news about these scams.
Avoiding and Responding to a Staged Car Accident
- Insist on calling the police, even if the damage seems minor. Having a police report offers some protection against damage which may be done to the car after the accident has already occurred to increase the payout.
- Carry a camera, pen, and paper in your car while driving. The camera could be disposable or a cell phone camera, but it is important to have these tools in order to document necessary information.
- Record the names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, and auto insurance company names of everyone involved in the accident.
- Be cautious of people who appear immediately after an accident and recommend a “helpful” towing company, doctor, attorney, or auto body shop, because they may possibly—not definitely—be involved in a scam.
- Maintain a safe distance between your car and other drivers; your chances of avoiding an accident altogether will improve.
- Do not sign blank claim forms.
- Trust your instincts. If you see a car behaving abnormally, exit the situation as soon as safely possible.
Results of Fraud
Even for those who are never involved in fraud—either as the victim or the criminal—everyone is affected by insurance fraud, both hard and soft. IFD states that
“Insurance fraud costs Americans at least $96 billion a year, or nearly $950 for each family, according to estimates by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.”
In addition, fraud creates a sense of distrust which also makes a victim out of innocent individuals who have never been involved in fraudulent claims.
Stigma Against Insurance Claims
Though the vast majority of claims are not fraudulent, there has been a rise in the perception that all insurance claims are either greedy or fraudulent. This is not true. Do not let this stigma dissuade you from pursuing compensation that you rightfully deserve. Insurance adjusters will be looking for fraudulent claims and may even use this stigma as a tool against you to have you settle on less than is fair to your situation. Don’t let that hinder you. If you have been in an accident and you were wrongfully injured, seek the compensation you need and do not settle too early.
Christensen & Hymas support honest dealings in legal affairs as well as compassion for those who have been wrongfully injured. We want to help. Please feel welcome to ask any questions you have regarding your claim situation by scheduling a free consultation or calling (801)506-0800.
Image copy right to
|Caricature by J.J., SVG file by Gustavb|