Staged Accidents are “Big Business”: Don’t Become a Victim
Automobile accidents are a daily occurrence on our nation’s roads and highways, costing the U.S. property-casualty insurance industry billions of dollars in paid accident claims each year. The consequences are even greater, however, for you as an innocent motorist when you become an unwitting participant in a fraud scheme.
Fraudulent automobile accidents occur more frequently in urban areas where there is a greater volume of vehicles, and also in wealthier communities because drivers there are perceived to have better insurance companies. Criminals often target new, rental, or commercial vehicles because they tend to be well-insured. Further, criminals prey upon women driving alone and senior citizens, as they are thought to be less confrontational at accident schemes.
Common Schemes to Look Out For
Here are a few common caused accident schemes to look out for to avoid being victimized and potentially injured while driving. For more details, see our "Staged Automobile Accident Fraud" brochure.
Left Turn Drive Down
You are driving down a four-lane road preparing to make a left hand turn. As you stop to make the turn, a driver heading the other way slows to a stop, waves to you to go ahead and turn. As you move ahead to complete the turn, the driver who waved you through suddenly moves forward blocking your entrance to the parking lot. To avoid an accident, you stop. However, another car coming down the road slams into the side of your car. The car blocking the entrance leaves the scene making it appear as though you are at fault for pulling into oncoming traffic. The driver and passengers of the car that crashed into you will all claim you pulled into traffic when it wasn’t clear and they will all claim injuries. As a result, a claim is filed against your insurance company to pay the criminals and unless someone suspects fraud and investigates further, the criminals cash in.
Right Turn Drive Down
You pull up to an intersection preparing to make a right-hand turn. You start to make the turn when suddenly another vehicle runs into the back-left side of your car. The driver and passengers of the car that crashed into you will all state you pulled into traffic when it wasn’t clear and they will all claim injuries. Seemingly at fault, a claim is filed against your insurance company to pay the criminals and unless someone suspects fraud and investigates further, the criminals cash in.
Curb Drive Down
You prepare to pull away from a curb and merge into traffic. It’s clear, so you drive ahead. Suddenly, a car crosses from the left lane and deliberately crashes into you. The driver and passengers of the car that crashed into you will all claim you pulled into traffic when it wasn’t clear and they will all claim injuries. As a result, a claim is filed against your insurance company to pay the criminals and unless someone suspects fraud and investigates further, the criminals cash in.
On an ordinary city street:
This typically involves three vehicles, two driven by criminals and the third by an innocent victim. The driver of the “squat” vehicle pulls in front of the victim’s car. The driver of the “swoop” vehicle pulls in front of the squat vehicle, causing the driver of the squat vehicle to hit his brakes. The victim cannot react in time and rear-ends the squat vehicle. The swoop vehicle races off and is not seen again. The victim then typically is responsible for any vehicle damage and personal injury to passengers in the squat vehicle.
On a freeway or expressway:
Similar to the above, but four vehicles are typically involved, with three belonging to criminals. In this variation, the third criminal boxes in the victim so he cannot change lanes when the swoop vehicle cuts off the squat vehicle. Following the crash, the swoop and box-in cars speed off, again forcing the victim’s insurer to pay the claim.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Staged Accident
- Avoid tailgating.
- Immediately call the police to an accident scene.
- Use the camera function on your cell phone or carry a disposable camera to document damage and the number of occupants in other vehicles.
- Avoid “runners” and “cappers” – people who suddenly appear at an accident scene to try to direct you to particular doctors and attorneys, as they are typically part of the criminal scheme.
- Be wary of physicians who insist you file a personal injury claim after an accident, especially if you are not hurt.
- Steer clear of tow trucks that appear when you have not called for service, as they are often “cappers” for body shops.
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