Car accident fraud is a real thing. In fact, Los Angeles County recently received a $6.9 million grant to crack down on staged car crashes, as the county has been dubbed the fraudulent accident capital of California, Los Angeles' KPCC-FM reports.
It goes even beyond just staging a car accident. The grant money will be used toward combating car insurance fraud rings, which often include fake victims, unscrupulous doctors who will diagnose fake injuries, and even unethical lawyers who will file fake claims.
What is car accident fraud, exactly? And what can you do if you suspect you're the victim of fraud or a staged crash? Here's a general overview:
Staged Car Accidents
Car accident fraud refers to acts like planning a collision in order to procure undeserved financial gain through a false insurance claim from a car insurance company.
For example, a con artist may drive in front of the victim's vehicle -- just as an accomplice driver abruptly slams his brakes in front of his partner in crime. In turn, the innocent victim ends up slamming his car into the con artist's vehicle. This is just one example of staged auto crashes, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. In some situations, fake witnesses will even be planted at the scene.
If You Suspect Fraud
If you suspect that you're a victim of a staged car accident, here are some tips as to what you can do:
- Document as much as you can. Much like you would after a valid car accident, take copious notes of the other drivers' identities and their vehicles. Include details like driver license numbers, car insurance information, and vehicle registration information. Make sure you have proper contact information from the other parties involved.
- Never settle on site with cash. Make sure that you report the accident to your insurance company so that any potential payments are handled by them, and notify them about your suspicions as well.
- Call the police. The responding officer will be able to guide you through your next steps if you suspect you've been a victim of a staged crash. It is also helpful to state details on a police report to ensure that the fraudster doesn't damage his car further to inflate his claim.
Lastly, be careful of what information you exchange with the possible scam artist. Make sure you don't disclose any information that could lead to identity theft, such as your Social Security number or credit card information.
Real car accidents are stressful enough -- you definitely don't want to deal with a fake one. For more guidance about how to handle a case of car accident fraud, you may want to contact an experienced car accident lawyer near you.