Car accidents do happen. But did you know that some of them might actually be staged? Sounds like fake news? Maybe, but maybe not. Let’s take a deeper dive and see if we can’t expose what some drivers might allegedly be doing.
While some people do their best to keep their vehicles from crashing into other vehicles, others might allegedly crash into a vehicle intentionally and make everything look like an accident. And the ultimate goal of these scammers for doing so? While there could be a number of different reasons, one theory might be that they are looking to obtain money from the insurance companies of unsuspecting victims.
If this is true, it might be categorized as insurance fraud, and it’s actually big business, according to Insure.com. So much so that it could be staged by organized crime rings in hopes of raking in millions of dollars (maybe more) from insurance companies. The same article on Insure.com cites one such crime ring back in 2013 where prosecutors say a crime ring they broke up tried to fleece $400 million from insurers through staged crashes and phony claims.
In the US, staged vehicle accidents might happen more often in certain areas or to specific vehicles. According to the details provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, fraudulent automobile accidents might occur more in urban area and in wealthier communities. Criminals might target new cars, rentals, or commercial vehicles since they are usually well insured.
How might a staged vehicle accident look?
- You’re driving innocently to the supermarket to buy some necessities. Suddenly out of nowhere, a car comes crashing into your vehicle.
- Even before your mind is able to process completely what just happened, the driver as well as the passengers of the other vehicle starts approaching you, each one complaining of injuries.
- Bystanders might also come popping out of nowhere claiming that they have witnessed the entire accident, and it looks like you’re the one that they are blaming. And also, strangers are approaching you, urging you to pay a certain clinic or personal injury lawyer.
Generally speaking, that’s how a staged vehicle accident might look like. At times it can be easy to tell that it is actually the work of a syndicate, but other times it’s not that obvious.
There are a handful of problems with staged vehicle accidents:
- Consumers might experience higher premiums. Because auto insurance companies might see that wrecks are getting more and more common and damages are getting more and more expensive to repair, they might have no choice but to increase premiums. Ultimately, the consumers are paying the price rather than scammers.
- Staged vehicle accidents might result in serious injuries or possibly fatalities. While the primary goal of organized crime rings involved in staged car crashes might be to obtain money from insurance companies, it is possible for things to get out of hand. During “accidents”, it’s possible for unsuspecting victims to actually get killed.
- Taxpayer dollars go to waste. Emergency crews have no means of telling if a reported car accident is staged or not, and that’s why they have to respond either way. These first responders responding to planned vehicle crashes might have been better used elsewhere.
No one is impervious to being victimized by scammers, and it includes you or your loved ones. Being armed with the right pieces of information is your best defense against staged vehicle accidents.
Being a victim might cause you the following:
- A tarnished record. Scammers who used you for their schemes might file costly claims on your insurance company. Such could cause your auto premiums to skyrocket.
- Stress. Being involved in a car crash, staged or otherwise, can be a very stressful ordeal. It may appear as though there is an endless need to file for police reports, get in touch with lawyers, communicate with your auto insurance adjuster, and provide details for car repairs and so many others.
- A disrupted life. Being an unsuspecting victim might leave you with injuries. Some types of injuries might keep you from going back to your job or miss future employment opportunities.
Scammers might opt for some tried-and-tested staged vehicle accident techniques. Some of these tactics might include the following:
- Swoop and squat. According to experts, it involves a car out of nowhere swooping in front of you. Once in the right position, the driver hits the brakes, which results in a rear-end collision. The drivers and the passengers then start complaining of neck or back injuries.
- Drive down. In this stratagem, the driver waves at you, telling you to go ahead and try to merge into traffic. But then the driver intentionally crashes into your vehicle, and then blatantly denying he or she actually waved you into traffic earlier. At times this tactic is also used at parking spaces.
- Sideswipe. This very common staged vehicle accident technique is handy to scammers at dual left-turn or right-turn lanes at busy intersections. If you are driving in the inner lane, then you are at risk – if you accidentally drift into the outer lane as you make a turn, the crook will intentionally ram his or her vehicle into your car.
- Shady helpers: After a staged car accident, someone will approach you, and then attempts to badger you into getting the medical attention you need at a particular clinic, obtaining the help of a certain lawyer, or having your car repaired as a certain body shop. Be wary because the person is usually an accomplice.
Now that you are aware of some of the most common techniques employed by organized crime rings involved with staged vehicle accidents, it’s time to know some of the steps that you may take if you suspect that you have just been victimized by a scammer:
- Call up the police.
- Take photographs of the scene of the accidents and the vehicles involved.
- Consult legal and medical providers that you know and trust, or at least recommended by reliable family member or friend. Refrain from giving in to the recommendations of a complete stranger at the site of the accident.
- Keep all the records of your medical treatments.
- Get in touch with your area’s insurance fraud bureau if you suspect that you have just been a victim to a staged car crash. Provide as many pertinent details as you can.
A special thank you to Fremont College Paralegal School for contributing to this article.
*The information provided in this article should not be considered legal advice that can only come from a qualified attorney. Paralegals may not provide legal advice except where permitted by law.