Being in an auto accident isn’t ever a good thing. Not only does it ruin a perfectly good day (or even a not-so-great one), there’s the insurance to deal with, getting your car repaired, and the real big one—possible injury.
Yet there are unsavory characters out there who try to get in car accidents. To them, it’s a way to make a living. To us, it’s more than just a nuisance. Along with the reasons above, it helps raise everyone’s insurance premiums, and that’s just not fair to the good drivers out on the roads. Especially in a place that relies heavily on cars, like Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside and San Diego.
And last week Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey warned drivers to be alert for these types. These people stage accidents and target innocent drivers.
This isn’t a small problem. According to a press release from the California Department of Insurance, 59.5% of insurance fraud referrals that they received were for suspected auto insurance fraud, and Los Angeles makes up over 40% of all auto-related insurance fraud that occurs in the state of California. In L.A. County alone, there were almost 8,000 suspected auto fraud claims!
Here’s what usually happens—two vehicles working together to box in a target and cause a collision. It’s called a “swoop-and-squat”, and it’s the most common scheme used to create a staged collision. Organized crime has a big hand in staging car crashes, and they usually target luxury vehicles, commercial vehicles and city/county-owned vehicles, as those vehicles have a better chance of being covered by an insurance policy.
The California Department of Insurance asks people to be on the lookout for these “red flags” that could mean you’ve been targeted by fraudsters:
- Is the other car filled with passengers?
- Does the other driver have an insurance policy that was acquired recently?
- Was the other car a wreck before it hit you, or marked “salvage” on the title?
- Was the traffic flowing smoothly, and the other driver stopped suddenly for no reason?
- Did the people in the other car avoid any conversation about other cars in the vicinity of the crash?
- Do the witnesses corroborate everything that the driver says?
- Does there seem to be a lot of injury claims even though the damage to both cars was relatively minor?
“Los Angeles County has the dubious distinction of being the state’s epicenter for auto insurance fraud,” District Attorney Lacey said. “The impact of that fraud on working families in Los Angeles County is real and substantial. My office along with the California Department of Insurance is committed to investigating and prosecuting the criminals who participate in these staged collisions. These wrecks are costly not only in terms of financial loss but also may have the unintended consequence of injuring or killing innocent motorists on our streets and highways.”
The Department of Insurance helped prevent over $140 million in automotive fraud claims last year alone. But they can’t catch them all, and those go on to increase the cost to insurance companies and therefore increase the rates of policy holders.
If you, or someone you know, gets set up in a staged car accident, there’s a few things you should do:
- Document as much information about the collision as possible
- Use your cell phone (or other camera) to photograph and/or video the damage from the accident as completely as possible
- Ask the police officer to ask everyone at the scene for identification
- And finally report the collision and its suspicious characteristics to the California Department of Insurance by calling 800-927-4357
Do you still have questions? The agents at BMR Insurance love questions! Give us a call at 714-838-1911 and we will do everything we can to answer your insurance queries, or to find you a better policy at a lower rate.