Staged accidents can appear like “real” accidents to even experienced drivers, but they have a few telltale signs that set them apart from a genuine accident.
Scammers have quickly caught onto this method as a way to get easy money from insurance companies, but insurance companies aren’t the only victims. Getting involved in an accident like this can really drive up your insurance rates. Although staged accidents usually aren’t deadly, there’s also a chance they could go wrong and cause innocent deaths or severe injuries, so there are multiple reasons you want to avoid them.
Staged accidents also cause everyone’s insurance premiums to rise, because the insurance companies usually pass the cost of fraudulent claims on to policyholders. More and more instances of questionable insurance claims keep getting reported, and according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, they are up 46% from 2007 to 2009. Also, according to the NICB, faulty insurance claims add $200 to $300 a year to the average auto insurance policy.
One man from North Carolina named Jonathan Jones has been in 42 auto accidents in nine years, and is now known by law enforcement as a con artist who stages auto accidents. Unfortunately, there are many more people like him out there, just waiting for the perfect scenario to carry out their plans.
A typical staged accident usually involves three different scenarios. In the first one, a driver may get in front of you and slam on the brakes, causing you to slam into their car. Then, the passengers and driver complain of neck and back pain, despite it being a low-speed crash. After the crash, the driver usually files a large injury and collision claim against your policy. Or, you might be trying to merge onto a highway or into another lane of traffic on a road. The driver may wave you into traffic, but then slam into your car. He or she will deny waving you onto the road, and blame you for the accident. This same scheme is often carried out in parking lots with people trying to back out of parking spots. Another scenario involves two left turn lanes at a traffic light; the shady driver will ram into you purposely if you even touch the dividing line, claiming the accident was your fault.
According to figures by the FBI, these insurance claims cost insurance companies $20 billion a year. Typical signs of a stage accident include everyone in the suspect car complaining of neck and back pain, many witnesses suddenly appearing out of nowhere, claiming it was your fault, and the person driving the other car may refer you to a certain repair shop, lawyer or doctor, all of whom could be part of the scam.
To avoid these accidents, try to keep ample space between you and other vehicles. Scammers usually like to hit people in a close proximity to them. In the event of an accident, take plenty of pictures with your smartphone, and try to make a claim before the other person can. If you have Allstate insurance, they even provide an in-app insurance claim form that you can fill out on your phone and send in immediately.
Don’t become a victim of insurance fraud – it could cost you more than just higher monthly payments to your insurance company; it could even cost you your life. Even though these types of accidents have become much more prevalent now, you can take precautions against getting into these accidents, and keep you and your family out of harm’s way.
Other ways to turn the tables should you get involved in one of these accidents are to take pictures of the parties that caused the accident so you can show them to police. They could already be convicted felons who have gotten away with these types of crimes before, and police would be able to identify them by looking them up in a national crime database. Also, you could install a driver camera in your car to record the accident as it happens. This way, police would be able to have a better idea of what happened, and lawyers could use this evidence in court if the case gets that far.
Avoiding staged accidents can be difficult, but by keeping a safe distance between you and other cars, and looking out for suspicious drivers, you can prevent these accidents from happening.
CNET (Aug 27, 2013) – “CNET On Cars – How to spot a “staged” accident”