A car accident can be a scary ordeal for everyone involved…except if someone planned it. Staged accident fraud, unfortunately, happens more than you would think. In fact, it’s estimated that staged accident fraud costs the insurance industry over $20 billion a year. So, how can you tell if someone has staged an accident or if it was just a mistake? Let’s take a look.
How do I know if someone tried to cause an accident?
There are actually a few tell-tale signs that a driver was trying to cause an accident. If you remember any of these signs, you may have been a victim of one of three of the most common types of accident fraud:
1. The Drive Down
Let’s say that you’re trying to merge into the next lane, and the driver behind you motions over or slows down to let you into the lane. However, when you start merging, that car speeds up and hits you. When the police arrive, the other driver denies ever giving you a signal to move over.
2. The Swoop & Squat
This is a staged accident scenario that involves two drivers – one that rides beside you (let’s call them Driver B) and one that swoops in front of you (we’ll call them Driver A). Driver A will drive behind Driver B while Driver B pulls ahead. This allows Driver A to “swoop” in front of you. Driver B then slows down to drive beside you. Driver A will then slam on their brakes. Since Driver B is blocking your ability to swerve out of the way, you’ll more than likely rear-end Driver A.
Accidents like this can be especially bad for you because the drivers and passengers of both cars could testify that you were at fault. If no other witnesses stuck around, you’ll probably have trouble convincing the police and your car insurance carrier that you weren’t responsible for the event. Passengers in the other vehicles could then file bogus injury claims. These claims could drive up your insurance rates at best, and leave you to pay the fraudsters out-of-pocket at worst.
3. The T-Bone
This one is simple but sometimes effective. Another driver waits until you’re crossing an intersection and T-bones your car. When the police arrive, the other driver and several other planted “witnesses” say that you ran a red light or a stop sign.
How can I protect myself from staged car accidents?
The tactics that a fraudster may use may be smart, but here are some ways to be smarter if you’re in an accident:
1. Call the police immediately.
Don’t settle the matter on-site with cash, and don’t admit fault. It may be a reflex to try to apologize to the other driver, but try not to say anything that can be taken as you admitting fault. Wait for a lawyer, court, or your insurance company to determine who is responsible.
2. Photograph or video as soon as you can after the accident.
This can be especially helpful with the last fraud technique if you can take a photo that proves you had the right of way. However, this is a good idea to do when you’re involved in any accident, staged or not. Take pictures or videos of both cars, passengers involved, any damages, etc. Be as detailed as you can. You never know what important information could be revealed in a photo later.
3. Take detailed notes
If possible, take detailed notes of the incident. Take down first and last names, VINs, phone numbers, license plate numbers, the name and phone number of the driver’s insurance company, auto policy numbers, and the year, make, and model of both cars involved. Note: This is the ONLY information another driver should need from you as well. Giving any other information could be used to steal your identity. So, keep your information safe!
Also, write down your detailed account of what happened. Memory can sometimes play tricks on you. So, having a first-impressions account of what happened can help you stick to the story of what happened instead of saying something that could be misconstrued or misremembered later.
4. Drive defensively
Don’t tailgate and be mindful of the actions of other drivers on the road. Look for any odd or erratic driving behaviors. If you don’t feel comfortable driving behind or next to another driver, don’t be afraid to change lanes or take another route.
Hopefully, these tips can make you more aware of when you’ve been in a staged accident. These incidents don’t just affect the people involved. It also contributes to insurance rates rising by an average $100 to $300 per year. So, knowing the signs and taking the proper measures after an accident can help you in filing a car insurance claim, and it can help your rates in the future.
We can also help you find lower rates when you’re getting car insurance. Our insurance professionals know exactly how to get the coverage you need for an affordable rate to fit your situation. To make sure you’re not missing out on these great rates, just call us or fill out our online form to start getting free quotes on car insurance.