While most people think of motor accidents as tragic and financially threatening, a growing population of criminals look to them as a chance to commit insurance fraud and receive financial gain. Years ago the occurrence of staged accidents was a small threat that received little attention-but times have changed. In a recent report on the trucking industry, experts warn that insurance fraud is a serious and prevalent threat to the trucking industry. Staged accidents can involve sophisticated tactics that may be hard to recognize, especially if an involved individual is under the distress of a recent accident. Though people may assume staged events are one-off events, some criminal groups will plan and execute up to multiple accidents in a short period of time.
This type of criminal activity is often backed by extensive experience and even training in fraud. It can be quite challenging to prove or identify a staged event vs. a real accident. Understanding ahead of time the characteristics of a staged accident can help you identify the signs if you end up in the situation. Additionally, knowing what steps to take if you do believe you’ve experienced accident fraud will make sure you have the proper evidence and documentation to provide to your insurance company.
What is a Staged Accident?
A staged accident is when a driver or multiple drivers intentionally cause an accident with other unknowing individuals for the purpose of collecting insurance money. In most cases, there is at least one car involved whose driver is unaware of any scheme. Having a stranger involved helps make the event look more real, and gives the criminals someone to target the insurance money from. There are, however, situations, where everyone is aware of the intentional accident.
Staged accidents are a threat to all drivers, but tend to specifically target companies with fleet vehicles. Fleet vehicles are more likely to be fully covered by insurance and are attractive for their higher insurance settlements. Staged accidents can be physically risky for drivers and financially risky for the company’s insurance premiums and payouts. Companies and individuals should be especially aware of staged accidents right now. Fraud tends to uptick among financially volatile times, and data shows the pandemic has influenced a rise in fraudulent accidents.
The Types of Staged Auto Accidents
Staged accidents will all look different, but there are a few classic-styled stagings to be on the lookout for:
T-Bone Collision- this type of accident is where the criminal driver smashes into the side of the other person’s vehicle, usually in an intersection. The criminal will have witnesses claiming the non-criminal driver ran a red light, was speeding or was somehow at fault.
Swoop and Stop- this style of accident is when the criminal driver slams on his or her breaks at the last second, causing the non-criminal driver to crash into the back of their car. In many cases, the criminal drivers will make sure the non-criminal driver is boxed in so there is no way to prevent the accident. Again, there will be witnesses claiming it was the non-criminal driver’s fault, and they may fake injuries.
The Wave In- This type of staged accident occurs when a criminal driver signals for the noncriminal driver that it is safe for them to merge in, and then speeds to cause a collision. They will claim they never waved the non-criminal driver in, and make it look like the accident was caused by cutting them off.
Characteristics of a Staged Accident
As mentioned before, insurance fraud is not going to be the first thing on your mind if you’re in an accident. You may genuinely believe the accident is your fault, or be too shocked to process the events. Unfortunately, there needs to be some evidence of staging if the non-criminal individual wants to prove it. Some signs to look out for include:
- An individual asking you to visit a specific doctor or body shop after the accident. These people could be aware of the staging, and make claims to support the criminal driver.
- There are multiple witnesses supporting the criminal driver, and their claims are different than your experience.
- Everyone involved in the criminal car seems perfectly okay until the police show up when they then claim to have injuries or quarrels.
- The events seem unlikely to occur naturally, such as being boxed in by multiple cars or experiencing an accident in little to no traffic.
- The potentially criminal driver asks to settle with cash instead of insurance
What to Do If You Fall Victim to a Staged Accident
Fraud happens every day, and accident fraud for insurance is no exception. Every state has experienced false claims, with some states witnessing claims involving multiple criminals at once. It can feel wrong to think someone is trying to cause harm to you for financial gain, and even if you aren’t positive, any gut feeling that your accident is staged should prompt you to take extra precautions. The first thing to do is take pictures-lots of pictures. Get images of not only your car, but the other vehicles involved as well. Additionally, try and get pictures of the area in which you experienced the accident so you have proof of details.
For example, a criminal may lie or exaggerate about traffic and the number of other cars on the road. Having pictures of your surroundings close to the time of the event can help prove the truth of the situation. You’ll also want to make note of how the crash happened in your eyes, and build a visual in your head using the surroundings you photographing. You want to be clear and sure of your story so the criminal has nothing against you.
Once you’ve recorded all of your information and called the police, make sure you continue the process with your insurance company. Do not settle a crash on the spot- let your professional insurance team help you. If the accident was staged, the criminal driver will be punished accordingly and you will likely not need to pay for any damages that weren’t your fault.
Protecting the Trucking Industry From Staged Accidents
There’s no way to stop people from attempting staged accidents. Groups of people spend a long time training and executing this style of fraud. The best way to avoid this kind of situation is to educate your workers, drivers, and employees on the potential of it happening. If people are aware of what staged accidents look like, they are more likely to spot it before the criminal either attempts to stage the event, or gets away with it after the event.
Understanding what kind of behavior often goes with fraud can make sure drivers attempt to escape the citation at the first sight of suspicion. The number one thing to do in any situation is to be aware of your surroundings, and take note of anything suspicious.
Protect Your Vehicles With ECBM
Whether you fall victim to a staged accident or a real one, ECBM Insurance is here to protect you. Our insurance programs ensure your commercial fleets are covered for standard and rare matters, so you never feel unprepared. For more information on our transportation division and specialized services, contact us today.