What You Need to Know
You’ve been involved in a minor car accident. Everything seems on the up-and-up and you’ve just dodged a bullet. Vehicles are not damaged, no one appears to be injured. There’s no reason to call 911 and report the accident, right? Wrong. This scenario represents the beginning scenes of one of the most common fraudulent accident claims.
Hard vs. Soft Insurance Fraud
Whether premeditated (hard) or opportunistic (soft), fraud is illegal in all 50 states. Hard Fraud includes staged auto accidents (most commonly the panic-stop that results in a rear-end accident) and planned vehicle thefts whereas Soft Fraud includes exaggerated injuries or vehicular damages in hopes to achieve a large settlement from the at-fault driver. At times, the perpetrator may be trying to dupe the insurance company for a payout or after an auto accident, they may be targeting the other driver with a personal injury claim.
All too often people drive away from a minor accident thankful that they have avoided injury, and sometimes worse – increased insurance premiums. Many times accidents are just as they appear to be, an accidental collision between two vehicles. But at times, the other driver takes advantage of this opportunity to seek a payout, exaggerating injuries such as whiplash or a back injury or passing off a previous dent as having occurred during the accident. Much to the surprise of the at-fault driver, they later receive word that the other driver is pursuing a personal injury claim due to injuries that allegedly occurred during this accident. This represents the most common type of insurance fraud following a car accident.
The first line of defense to protect yourself from a false auto accident claim is to drive carefully to avoid an accident entirely, but if you have been involved in an auto accident, call 911 and request an official report of the accident. By establishing a record of the call, you have the first documentation of the accident. When a report is filed, the officer may be in a position to determine fault, but regardless, recording the details of the accident is instrumental if an injury claim is later filed. Whether the injury is legit or not, drivers must protect themselves by calling the authorities regardless of the severity of the accident.
Nearly all of us have smartphones. After an accident, take photos documenting all angles of the accident. In some cases, dash cams or built-in cameras on Teslas and other vehicles can record the incident and provide evidence of the accident. Be wary of over helpful bystanders (who may be in on a staged or purposeful accident), or an unsolicited tow truck driver that may offer to tow your car at an inflated rate. Always rely on dependable services if your vehicle needs to be removed from the scene.
Be vigilant. Educate younger drivers in your family who may be seen as easily distracted targets for staged accidents. In the event of an accident, cooperate with your insurer’s investigation of the accident to prevent denial of coverage. In some cases, the insurance company may try to negotiate a settlement, especially when the claim is less than your coverage amount, but in the case that they agree that the claim is likely fraudulent, an attorney is hired to defend a personal injury lawsuit.
Who to contact
If you suspect that you are the victim of a fraudulent claim, first call your insurance company. A serious criminal offense, reporting the fraud is your first step to mitigating the repercussions and establishing the claim as false. Then, call Mark Artall, APLC. We work to protect your interests and combat these false claims.