How to prevent and defend against staged car accidents
Staged accidents are a big criminal enterprise, as a personal injury lawyer trusts can explain. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they cost insurance companies about $20 billion per year. They impact you with the headaches of being on the receiving end of personal injury and property damage claims, while significantly increasing insurance premiums. Victims of staged accidents might even suffer legitimate injuries.
Many People Can Be Involved
The participants in staged accidents maneuver their way into crashes that are intended to make the real victim appear to be at fault. Often, the person staging the accident has passengers in the car. Everyone in the vehicle will fake injuries to receive money from the victim’s auto insurer, or even the insurer of the vehicle that they were occupying. It’s not unusual for associates to pose as “independent witnesses” to the accident either. So many staged accidents occur that the FBI has categorized the most common scenarios:
- Swoop and squat: When the car in front of you gets cut off, and you rear-end it
- Drive down: When a driver waves you to merge, and then hits you
- The sideswipe: When a driver intentionally sideswipes you if you drift over slightly
- The t-bone: When a driver broadsides you, claiming that you ran a red light or stop sign
The Common Factors
A sophisticated staged accident ring may operate in several different states. The conspirators of the ring might consist of drivers, passengers, witnesses, medical professionals, body shop owners, and even lawyers. There are two common threads to these types of accident cases. First, there might be three or four people claiming injury. Next, they happen in no-fault insurance states more often than fault-based states. That’s because the participants are more likely to collect on a claim against his or her own insurance company than an adverse insurer in a fault-based state.
Defend Yourself From Stagers
The most effective measures that you can take to defend against accident stagers is to drive defensively, and stay away from cellular devices when you’re driving. If stagers see you using a cellular device, they may consider you to be an easier target. They may accuse you of distracted driving, and may be able to prove it, too. From that point, it’s just a matter of the nature and extent of the injuries and property damage that the stagers claim.
At The Scene
Always insist that the police come to the scene, no matter how much the other driver protests. Call 911 on your own phone, tell the 911 operator that you believe that you were the victim of a staged accident, and reiterate that information to the investigating officer who arrives on the scene. He or she might investigate the crash more closely with an eye toward that. If you receive a ticket anyway, it is not advisable to plead guilty to the traffic offense. That guilty plea can be used against you in a personal injury case. However, a judicial finding of guilt in traffic court can’t be used against you.
As in any accident, you may want to notify your insurer of the occurrence right away. If you suspect that you were set up in a staged accident, advise your insurance company accordingly. They may have their own fraud unit, and access to law enforcement agencies specifically established for investigating possible fraudulent accident claims.