Learn how to identify car accident scammers so you don’t become their next victim
Car accidents are an unfortunate reality of modern life that can often be traumatic experiences for those involved. Unfortunately, there are people out there who see accidents as an opportunity to scam others for their own personal gain.
Car accident scams are becoming increasingly common, and they can take many different forms. From staged accidents to exaggerated injuries, these scams are costly to accident victims, insurance companies and society as a whole.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most common car accident scams and offer advice on how to avoid falling victim to them. Whether you’re a new driver or a seasoned road user, it pays to be aware of these scams and to take steps to protect yourself from their damaging effects.
What is car accident insurance fraud?
Car accident insurance fraud is a scam that is carried out for the purpose of financial gain. There are different ways that this can happen, but some are more common than others. What each type of car insurance fraud scheme shares in common is that they’re all done intentionally to cheat for one’s own profit.
What’s the difference between “soft” and “hard” insurance fraud?
There are 2 main types of car accident insurance fraud:
- Soft insurance fraud involves making exaggerations about a legitimate car accident claim.
- Hard insurance fraud, also known as premeditated fraud, involves deliberately staging an accident or injury in order to make a fraudulent claim. This type of fraud is often committed by organized criminals who have sophisticated methods of carrying out their schemes.
What are the different types of car accident scams?
Accident scams can take many different forms, but they often involve a deliberate collision between 2 or more vehicles, with the aim of creating the appearance of an accident in which 1 party is clearly at fault. Below are some of the most common types of accident scams.
A staged accident is an accident that has been planned and executed for the purpose of making a fraudulent insurance claim. These are some of the most common types of staged accidents:
- Drive down. This scam occurs when a scammer waves another driver to make a turn or merge into traffic, but instead of letting the driver continue their turn or merge, the other driver speeds up and causes a car accident.
- Panic stop. This type of fraud happens when a scammer brakes abruptly in front of another vehicle, causing a rear-end accident. In some cases, they manage to pull this off while the other driver is momentarily distracted. This scam often results in the victim being deemed liable because it’s a rear-end collision.
- Sideswipe. In a sideswipe car accident scam, the scammer deliberately sideswipes another vehicle while making a turn and claims that they were the one who was hit.
- Swoop and squat. This car accident scam involves 2 vehicles. One is the squat, which drives in front of the victim. The 2nd vehicle, the swoop, cuts off the squat car and causes a rear-end collision because the victim is unable to brake quickly enough to avoid the accident.
- Backup scam. In this scheme, the scammer is in a vehicle stopped at a red light or stop sign and suddenly backs up into the car behind them. The scammer then blames the other driver, accusing them of a rear-end accident.
- Phantom passengers. The phantom passengers scam happens when other people suddenly appear after a collision and get into the scammer’s vehicle, claiming to be injured as a result of the accident. In some cases, the victim might not even see them appear.
The “bad samaritan”
Another type of car accident scam to be on the lookout for is called the “bad samaritan.” While scammers don’t necessarily cause these accidents, they seize the opportunity to profit from them. Typically this scammer sees the accident and approaches the victim while they’re waiting for the police or a tow truck to arrive at the scene. The scammer then offers to” help” by directing the victim to get repair work done at a fraudulent business they’re connected with.
The following repair scams are also common ways to cheat people after an accident:
- Towing scam. This scam happens at the hands of a tow truck driver who offers to tow the victim’s car to a specific repair shop. The problem is that the tow truck driver has an arrangement with this shop, which charges high repair costs and gives the tow truck driver a cut of the profits.
- Windshield replacement scam. In this scam, the victim is approached by someone claiming to be employed by an auto glass company after an accident. They might offer to replace your windshield for free or offer you a coupon or gift card for signing a document. This document is an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) document, which grants scammers the authority to submit an insurance claim on your behalf. These fraudulent individuals then overstate the expenses beyond the usual cost of windshield replacement to profit from your accident.
- Repair shop scam. This scam happens when repairs are done by fraudulent companies that only care about taking your money. Instead of providing you with legitimate repairs that make your vehicle safe for driving, they often use cheap parts that could compromise your safety or make up damage that doesn’t actually exist.
Even pedestrians sometimes try to pull car accident scams. This happens when a pedestrian deliberately darts out in front of a vehicle while it’s traveling slowly, causing them to get hit. The pedestrian then claims to be badly injured and blames the victim driver.
What are some red flags that an accident was staged?
Certain signs should be taken as red flags that you’re involved in an accident scam. They include the following:
- The driver acts strangely. If the other driver does something odd, like waving you ahead to merge or turn but then speeds up and hits you, it’s a definite red flag.
- The driver prevents you from changing lanes. If a scammer prevents you from changing lanes or abruptly veers into your lane without reason, you should question if the accident was deliberate.
- You were driving in an upscale area. Many car accident scams occur in wealthy neighborhoods because criminals know these drivers often have better car insurance policies.
- The driver’s injuries seem exaggerated. If the other driver immediately claims to be in severe pain or has injuries that are inconsistent with the severity of the accident, you should suspect it may be a scam.
How can you protect yourself after an accident?
Regardless of whether your accident was staged or legitimate, there are steps you can take to protect yourself after a car accident. They include the following:
- Stop and get to safety.
- Call 911 for the police and an ambulance.
- Never apologize to the other driver or admit fault.
- Get the names and contact information of the other driver and any witnesses.
- Gather evidence and take ample photos of the accident scene.
- Document the events of the accident in writing, ideally at the scene.
- Notify your insurance company as soon as possible.
- Contact an attorney to ensure your rights are protected.
How can a personal injury attorney help prove fault in a fraudulent accident case?
If you believe you’re the victim of a fraudulent accident, a personal injury attorney can help you gather evidence and build a case to prove that the accident was staged and the other party is at fault. Here are some ways a personal injury attorney can help:
- Investigation. A personal injury attorney can launch an investigation into the accident, including gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, and obtaining any available video footage or other documentation.
- Expert testimony. A personal injury attorney can consult with experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists, to provide testimony on the likelihood of the accident being staged.
- Negotiation. If the other party’s insurance company is disputing liability or refusing to pay a fair settlement, a personal injury attorney can negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
- Representation in court. A personal injury attorney can represent you in court if the case goes to trial, presenting evidence and arguments to prove that the other party is at fault and the accident was staged.
Contact an experienced Florida car accident attorney
If you believe you’re the victim of a car accident scam, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Lorenzo & Lorenzo. Our firm has a proven track record of success helping people in the Tampa Bay area get the justice and compensation they deserve after fraudulent car accidents. Your initial consultation is always free, and we won’t charge you a fee unless we win your case.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, let us handle the lawyers and insurance companies so you can focus on healing. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.