Many top state officials across the U.S. have recently issued travel warnings, cautioning residents and visitors on the dangers of staged auto accidents. These fraudulent car crashes are often a way for an unscrupulous scam artist to defraud your insurance company, causing your own insurance rates to rise. How can you tell if an auto accident in which you were involved was staged -- and what can you do if you find yourself in this situation? Read on to learn more about staged auto accidents and how you can protect yourself both before and after such a crash.
What makes a car crash "staged"?
Many staged auto crashes are successful only because they so closely resemble an actual accident. These accidents take place when the scam artist views a prime opportunity to force a collision, usually while you are changing lanes or proceeding through an intersection. In many cases, the scam artist will wave you forward to switch into his or her lane or enter an intersection first -- then the scam artist will collide into your vehicle and accuse you of cutting him or her off. In other situations, the scam artist will quickly pull out in front of you, forcing a rear-end collision.
Although either of these scenarios may have you initially believing you were in a genuine accident, there are a few telltale signs that the other driver may not be sincere. If you notice that the number of passengers in the other vehicle seems to increase after you've all gotten out, you may be the victim of a staged crash. In some cases, the scam artist is driving solo, but his or her collaborators will rush to the scene after a staged crash has taken place, claiming that they were passengers and suffered injury.
In other situations, you may notice that a number of witnesses stop and offer to testify on the other driver's behalf, convinced that you are responsible for the crash (even if your vehicle was the one struck). As in any situation, if your gut instincts tell you that something is fishy, proceed with caution.
What can you do if you are involved in a staged crash?
If you sense that the crash in which you were involved was staged by the other driver, there are a few important points you should remember.
First, call the police. The scam artist may try to convince you to pay him or her off without filing an insurance claim, or will attempt to get you to admit fault before the police arrive. In many cases, the scam artist will try to persuade you not to call the police -- an accurate police report made at the scene makes it more difficult to claim significant injuries or damage later, when the scam artist contacts your insurance company.
Next, never admit fault! Don't apologize or make statements implying that you should have been more careful or paying more attention. If the accident was staged, it was not your fault -- even if you are the one who collided with the other vehicle. Admissions at the scene may later be used against you.
Finally, consult an attorney from a firm like Schiller, Kessler & Gomez, PLC. If you feel the accident was staged, you may find yourself the target of a later insurance or personal injury claim. It's important to seek legal counsel to protect yourself and help fight back against a potential scam artist. In many cases, you may even be able to recover a settlement or judgment from the other driver to compensate you for your vehicle repairs and any other costs incurred as a result of the accident.