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Steering Clear of Staged Accidents
Tips to Avoid Insurance Fraud on the Road
It happens more than you might think—a driver causes an accident to collect the insurance money -- you could become a victim.
The Sudden Stop —  “It happens like this,” says a Special Investigations Manager, “I’m driving along, minding my own business, in rush hour traffic, and the car in front of me inexplicably slams on his brakes. I rear-end that car and I get blamed for the accident.”
The driver of the first car will claim that a “phantom” dog or child ran into the road, or that the car in front of him had stopped suddenly, although that car will not be involved in the accident. Any witnesses will have driven off long before police arrive, and it’s nearly impossible to prove a dog didn’t dart out.
Inattentive Targets in Traffic —  The drivers in such a scam cruise clogged highways and city streets, watching the rearview mirror, looking for someone who is not paying attention. “We’ve all seen a woman putting on mascara in the rearview mirror or a man shaving on the way to work --maybe they’re on the phone, too. These people are potential targets. The driver will cross four lanes to get in front of that person.”
In the past, two cars might employ a tactic called the “swoop and squat,” where one car would crowd the victim from behind and another would stop suddenly in front. With today’s traffic density, however, a second car is rarely involved.
The Phantom Wave —  Another type of staged accident can occur when a driver is trying to merge. The scam artist will wave him into the lane and then crash into the side of his vehicle. This can also happen when someone is backing out of a parking lot space. A second car will stop and wave the first car out, as if waiting for the space, but then drive into the first vehicle. In both cases, the scam artist denies stopping or waving, and police find the victim at fault for failing to yield the right of way.
Fraud Rings —  In some cases, an attorney with explicit understanding of insurance policies and practices organizes these scams. The driver will be accompanied by a full carload of passengers to maximize the payout. Everyone in the car will visit the emergency room after the accident. Everyone in the car will treat at a chiropractor. In some cases, a chiropractor or other healthcare provider is part of the ring.
How to Combat Staged Accidents —  When there is reason to suspect fraud, ask your insurance company to investigate the claims histories of the driver and passengers. They may also consider investigating the attorney and the healthcare clinic along with a careful review of the circumstances of the accident and the claimants’ course of treatment. When fraud is found, report the case to state and law enforcement authorities as appropriate.
How You Can Avoid a Staged Accident — 
  • Pay attention to the road—no applying make-up, shaving, text messaging, reading, etc. Not only do these activities make you a less effective driver—they make you a target.
  • Maintain a safe following distance.
  • Call the police and the insurance company promptly after an accident. If the other driver discourages you from doing so, it is all the more important to call them promptly.
  • Tell the claims handler if the accident seems suspicious.
  • Call your insurance agent or broker.
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