To the average person, a car accident is one of the least desirable situations in which they could find themselves. An auto accident can be dangerous, traumatic, and expensive.
Unfortunately, some people do cause accidents on purpose. In fact, staged car accidents are becoming more common in the United States. Perpetrators of fraudulent accidents intend to make money by submitting bogus claims.
Types of Accident Scams
Staged car accidents are typically carefully planned and practiced. Described below are some common schemes.
The T-Bone Accident
In this scenario, a scam artist will wait for your car to proceed through an intersection and then jam the gas pedal and T-bone your vehicle. When the police arrive, phony witnesses, also known as “shady helpers,” will then claim you were the one who ran the stop sign or traffic signal.
In this scam, the other driver will notice your attempt to switch lanes and subsequently wave you ahead. As you attempt to maneuver into the lane, he will accelerate, causing a collision with your car. When the police arrive, he will deny ever providing a courtesy wave, placing you at fault.
Dual Turn Sideswipe
A driver in the outer lane of the dual turn rams into you if you go even the slightest bit out of the inner lane as the two of you are making your turns. They may also drive a bit into your lane and swipe your car and then blame you.
“Witnesses” working with the con artist may corroborate his story.
This simple scam involves the driver in front of you slamming on their brakes for no reason so that you cannot avoid rear-ending her vehicle.
Swoop and Stop
In this scenario, a car will suddenly pull in front of yours and stop. Another vehicle will simultaneously pull up alongside your car, preventing you from swerving to avoid an accident.
In any fraudulent accident, you may find yourself on the hook for injuries you didn’t cause. The con artists and their passengers may collaborate with a shady physician or chiropractor and file personal injury claims for phony injuries.
Some may even visit legitimate doctors and claim whiplash or other “soft tissue injuries,” which are difficult to detect.
Once you’ve been in an accident, you may need a tow. Don’t let your guard down at this point, even though the accident is over. You are still susceptible to towing scams.
Be especially careful of tow trucks that appear before you have a chance to call for assistance.
Someone who appears on the scene and offers to help before you ask for help may be attempting to scam you by offering a tow at very inflated rates.
To learn more, visit our page on preventing car insurance fraud.
Negative Consequences of Scams
Car insurance scams can have consequences ranging from inconvenient to devastating. They can have the following effects.
- Expense. You may be stuck paying for damages you didn’t cause.
- Inconvenience. Even if you are unhurt and your insurance company ultimately pays for the damage, the process can be long as you get your car fixed and file the claim and police report. If you add a lawsuit to the mix, you’re looking at even more time until resolution.
- Higher auto insurance premiums. Car insurance companies pay more when fraud occurs, and those costs are balanced out by increased premiums for everyone.
- Trauma. Getting in your car after being a victim of a staged car accident can be scary because you may feel that you cannot avoid an accident no matter how careful you are.
- Injury and death. Scammers don’t necessarily intend to hurt or kill anyone, but staged car accidents can go terribly wrong.
How to Avoid Accident Scams
The best ways to avoid accident scams are to drive carefully and be prepared. Keep a camera, pen, and paper in the car so that you can take photos and notes at the scene.
Also, be aware that some groups are at higher risk for being victims. Risk factors include the following:
- Luxury vehicles and new cars – They may have higher insurance limits.
- Work vehicles and big rigs – Car insurance scams on these vehicles may be more lucrative.
- Women and older adults – Con artists may find these drivers easier to intimidate.
Handling a Fraudulent Accident
Staged car accident scam artists are vulnerable to facts. The more information you provide, the more equipped you are to fight an insurance scam.
Snap photos from every angle of the involved vehicles, with special focus on the damage. Also, capture on camera the license plate, as well as photos of the driver all the passengers in the other vehicle.
Take copious notes, and record as much as you can of the following:
- Driver license number.
- Vehicle registration information.
- Car insurance information.
- Name, address, and phone number.
- The general height and weight (as well as the ethnicity) of the other car’s driver and passengers.
Also, call the police if you suspect that you were in a staged accident.
Don’t ever settle on site with cash; always report the accident to your car insurance company, and let them know if you suspect a scam.