How to Recognize and Protect Yourself from Staged Auto Accidents
Each year thousands of drivers are victims of staged auto accidents. Most never realize it because criminals plan the accident to appear that the innocent driver is at fault so they can then file claims with that driver’s insurance company for vehicle damage and personal injuries. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the Los Angeles Police Department, staged auto accidents are on the rise in Southern California, and Los Angeles is the staged auto accident capital of the United States.
This can be a dangerous game, as these staged accidents do not always go as planned, sometimes causing physical, financial and/or emotional injuries to unsuspecting drivers. Such schemes cost the insurance industry an estimated $20 billion annually and hurt consumers when the costs are passed on in the form of higher insurance premiums.
Several Types of Staged Auto Accidents
Drivers can avoid becoming a victim to these scams by recognizing the most common types of staged auto accidents.
- Swoop and squat. While there are several variations to this common scheme, they generally entail an intentional rear-end collision caused by a car suddenly pulling up in front of a victim in traffic and slamming on the brakes.
- Drive down. As a victim attempts to merge into freeway traffic, a driver waves him or her forward to give the right-of-way. Instead of letting the victim in, however, that driver deliberately crashes into the vehicle and blames the victim for the accident.
- Sideswipe. Usually performed in a dual-turn lane, a criminal will position his vehicle in an outer lane, and sideswipe a victim’s vehicle as soon as it comes into that outer turning lane and accuse the victim of reckless driving.
- T-Bone. A criminal waits for the victim to drive through an intersection and then slams into the victim’s vehicle, claiming the victim intentionally ran the stop sign.
- The wave. As the victim attempts to change lanes in heavy traffic, another driver gestures him or her over and, just as the victim completes the lane change, the criminal rams into the vehicle.
Tip-offs of a Staged Accident
Drivers should be wary of the following red flags after an accident –
- Several people in the other car are claiming injuries, particularly where the driver and passengers all complain of back and neck pain despite minimal damage to their vehicle
- The injuries seem to intensify when the driver or passengers in the other vehicle talk to a police officer or insurance company representative
- Additional witnesses suddenly appear at the accident site immediately following the crash
- The driver of the other vehicle offers to find you a first-class auto repair shop, a doctor, or a lawyer
What to Do if You Suspect an Accident Has Been Staged
Certain measures can help protect victims from unnecessary liability and help uncover the fraudulent nature of the accident.
- Call the police to the scene and get a police report, even if damage is negligible. If the police report describes the resulting damage as minimal, it will be harder for the criminal to inflict further damage to their car afterwards and collect a larger claim.
- Take detailed notes and obtain as many facts as possible. Write down the driver’s license number, vehicle registration data, car insurance information, home address and phone number, as well as much personal information on the other passengers as possible. The more information you obtain, the less inclined the scam artist will be to follow through with the charade.
- Take pictures. Carry a disposable camera in your glove compartment or use your cell phone to take as many pictures as possible, including: the location of the accident and placement of the cars, all angles of both cars involved, license plate of the other car, the driver, all passengers and their licenses, registration and insurance information.
- Notify the police and your insurance company immediately. Any effort to discourage you from reporting the accident could be a sign of an auto scam.
- Alert your insurance claims adjuster. If you suspect a scam, alert your insurance company to your suspicion immediately.
- Only seek medical attention and other services from someone you trust. Do not go to any physician, lawyer or auto repair shop recommended by the other driver.
- Keep careful records. Retain all receipts and invoices pertaining to your medical treatments and auto repairs.
- Never settle for cash. Never accept proposals from scammers to quickly settle the accident with cash to avoid having the accident on your driving record. A cash transaction leaves no evidence of the accident and could cause more trouble if the other driver then claims it was a hit and run. Contact your insurance company instead.
You May Also Need Legal Advice
Staged auto accidents are not only costly, they can be dangerous. Sometimes drivers lose control of their vehicles and the accident is more serious than intended. The cost to the insurance industry and ultimately consumers is significant as well. If you believe you were a victim of a staged auto accident, it is important to contact your insurance company immediately. A consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney can also help minimize your liability and obtain compensation for your injuries from those who are truly at fault in an accident.
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Let Mara Burnett Help You Assess Your Claim
If you or a loved one is dealing with an injury suffered through no fault your own, Mara Burnett can help. Experienced and reputable, Mara and the other attorneys at Mandell Law provide hands-on care and a sincere commitment to victims of personal injury and harms of all kinds, including auto accidents and fraud. The Mandell Law Firm, in Woodland Hills, California is an aggressive personal injury law firm serving clients throughout the San Fernando Valley, the Greater Los Angeles area and Southern California. Contact Mara Burnett for a free consultation at 818.886.6600.