Not every accident is really an accident. Sometimes car accidents happen because one driver purposely maneuvers another driver into hitting them – sometimes with the help of a third car. These staged accidents are a form of insurance fraud, and they can have serious consequences for their victims, including injuries, property damage, a blemished driving record, and higher insurance premiums. It's best to avoid being targeted for these scams at all, if you can manage it. However, if you are targeted, you can still avoid becoming a victim of a scam if you can recognize the signs of a staged accident and know what to do after the accident occurs. Here are some tips to help keep you safe from scammers.
Don't Drive While Distracted
Drivers who are texting, talking on their cell phones, or appear to be distracted in some other way are ripe for becoming victims of a staged car crash scam. The less attention you're paying to the road, the less likely it is that you'll be able to say with any certainty that the accident wasn't your fault in the first place.
In many locations, texting and driving is against the law. Some areas also require the use of hands-free devices if you're going to be talking on the phone. However, even if you're in an area that has no cell phone restrictions while driving, putting away the phone is the best way to keep yourself safe. Other distractions to avoid while driving include eating, putting on makeup, and rummaging in your purse or glove box.
Always Call The Police
If you're in an accident, don't let the other driver talk you into leaving the scene without reporting the accident. If nothing else, filing a police report at the time of the crash documents the damages and injuries that were visible at the scene. Without that report, it's possible for the other driver to intentionally add damage to their car in order to file a larger claim.
A police report may also help if the damage to the car isn't consistent with the injuries that the other driver or their passengers claim to have. If a staged accident case makes it to court, a record of minor injuries to the rear end of the car may damage the driver's claim of a severe head injury, for example.
Know What Staged Accidents Look Like
Understanding what common types of staged accidents look like can help protect you from being taken in. The "swoop and squat" method of staging an accident is often considered to be the most common. This method uses two cars – one pulls up alongside you, blocking you from changing lanes. The other hits the brakes in front of you, causing a collision.
You should also be wary if another driver motions you forward at an intersection, only to end up colliding with you. And you should be on the lookout for passengers that you didn't see in the car prior to the accident, or witnesses that appear suddenly and back the other driver's story exactly. These people may be plants.
Choose Your Own Professionals
Sometimes staged accident scammers will try to send you to a specific doctor or lawyer, or recommend a tow truck driver or a mechanic. The catch is that the professionals they're referring you to are in on the staged accident racket. Don't take recommendations from the other driver, or from strangers who've appeared out of nowhere to be witnesses.
If you need a tow truck driver and don't know who to call, ask the police when they show up to take your statement. You should shop around to choose your own doctor, lawyer, and mechanic. If you need a recommendation, get it from someone you know and trust.
Finally, be sure to call an auto accident lawyer after any accident. If the accident was the fault of the other driver, you may be owed money for your damages or losses.