By: Karin Murphy Caro
No one wants to be in a car collision. Well...almost no one. There are drivers that will intentionally cause an accident with an intent on receiving the insurance money for the damages as well as the medical expenses and/or law suit.
An innocent driver can be left with the ramifications of a staged accident including a blemished record and the legal hassles associated with the accident. There are repairs, legalities, claims, police officers, investigators, lawyers and the insurance companies to deal with and for some, physical injuries.
Sometimes, a staged accident can be delivered in such way that makes an innocent party appear to be at fault. Even a small dent can add up to a fraudulent claim against an insurance company. The scammer can make a fraudulent claim against the insurance company spiking insurance premiums while embellishing injuries and even their passengers can make a claim to collect money.
Avoiding Staged Accident Scams
Although it’s nearly impossible to avoid many staged collisions, victims can try to protect themselves. Drivers with cameras, or cell phones that function as such, should take as many photographs as possible, document as much of the event as possible. Keep a clear and concise record of the vehicles, the damage, the other driver’s license plate, and even the other driver and any passengers. The innocent driver should also take copious notes, transcribing important information about the other driver, such as the driver's:
Punishment for Fraud
Perpetrators of staged car collisions and related insurance schemes are usually prosecuted under fraud statutes. Depending in part on the scope of the enterprise, the crime will be prosecuted as a state crime and brought by the county district attorney’s office; or prosecuted as a federal offense, handled by the United States government.
State laws proscribe fraud in general and specifically prohibit people from presenting false insurance claims. These crimes may be treated either as misdemeanors or felonies and can carry both imprisonment and stiff financial penalties.
The federal government may prosecute phony auto accident schemes under a variety of laws, notably the mail and wire fraud statutes. For example, in 2012 a leader of a prominent accident staging ring in Florida was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to repay $4.4 million in illegal profits. The scheme involved staged accidents and spurious chiropractic claims. Other members of the operation also received prison sentences and hefty restitution orders.
Joseph Yannone, Licensed Private Investigator who has been investigating staged accidents for over 20 years, states: "Staged accidents will increase your auto-insurance premium because of the large sums of money paid out for fraudulent treatment(s). If you think you have been a victim of a staged accident, notify your insurance company promptly. Fraudulent medical treatments as a result of these fraudulent accidents produce billions of dollars a year in costs to the insurance carriers nationwide."
Innocent drivers should never settle with cash. They should report all details of the accident to the police and their insurance company. If they suspect fraud, they might consider contacting the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Karin Murphy is an investigative reporter. Through her own experiences she took an interest in undercover & investigative work.