A reader writes:
I was involved in a minor accident. My Dodge Neon hit under the back bumper of a GMC Jimmy, in which no damage was done to either vehicle, not even a scratch. The other driver claimed under his insurance for major chrome bumper damage that existed prior to the incident.
I took a video showing that the height of both vehicles, showing my car is lower than his bumper! It's hardly conceivable that my car caused any damage, given where it hit, and it wasn't his bumper.
I want my insurance to review the case and drop the 'at-fault' label. Prior to the crash, my auto insurance premium was $1,100 a year. Post-crash, it's over $4,500.
Any help would be greatly appreciated, as right now I am not driving because of the insurance costs.
It's hard to imagine that there are people purposely crashing into other drivers for profit, but it's true.
Last year these staged accidents caused more than $3-million in fraudulent claims in the Greater Toronto Area alone, with the police braking up nine major auto collision rings.
Staged accidents are occurring mostly in major cities but are predominately in Ontario, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. If you're a victim of a staged accident you need to know how to spot the signs and report it to your insurance company so they don't deem you to be at fault. If you wait until your policy renews to fight the increase, it's a lot harder.
A staged car accident is not easy to recognize or to avoid if you don't know what to look for, and the perpetrators getting more sophisticated, working with two or even three cars setting you up. There may also be people on the street that will approach you to set you up with auto body shops, lawyers and doctors or even act as a witness. This witness may not be on your side, be careful who you trust.
In this case, it appears you may be the victim of a "swoop and squat." This is where a car suddenly cuts in front of you and the driver slams on the brakes. If you rear end the car, you're at fault.
Often this car will also contain passengers, all pretending to have painful neck or back injuries. The owner of the vehicle will then make large collision and injury claims even though the damage was minimal. Sometimes a second car is used to pull in front of you to slow you down, and then the "crash car" swoops in between, slams on their brakes, causing you to hit them.
There's also the "drive down," where you may be either driving down an on- ramp or merging into traffic when a slower vehicle in front of you "waves" you over to pass them. As you're passing this car side swipes you, blaming you for the accident.
In parking lots, someone may beckon you to drive out of your space and then he or she will intentionally drive into you, claiming they were waving at a fly in the car, not you.
Then there's the "sideswipe," which often happens in double lanes. If you drift into the other lane, even a little, the car next to you will purposely hit your car, and you'll be at fault for the accident.
To avoid a staged collision, never tailgate, and allow plenty of distance between you and the car ahead in case they decide to suddenly jam on their brakes. If you're being waved on, let the other car go first.
These staged accidents are designed to make it look like it's your fault, and your insurance rate will be affected. If you have tickets or a previous accident it may even initiate a cancellation by your insurance company.
At the scene of the accident, use your intuition. If you feel you're the victim of a staged accident, you probably are. Be your own crime scene investigator.
The possible players who could be involved in this accident insurance scam may range from the driver of the car and people in the vehicle, a stranger on the street, tow-truck driver, mechanics, auto dealers, doctors, rehab physicians, and lawyers.
The car crashers get money for staging the crash. The tow truck driver will get a kickback from the repair shop. The auto body shops bill for additional damage. The doctors, chiropractors and lawyers might bill for extra services, or visits that never occurred.
In the event of a collision, call the police to the scene. Get a police report with the officer's name, especially if the damage is minor. If the officer's notes state that there was just a small scratch or dent, and the driver attempts to claim for serious injuries or car damage this will be evidence supporting any claim that the accident was staged. Tell police if you have any suspicions.
Watch carefully how the passengers of the other car behave. If they're standing around joking and then suddenly act injured when the police arrive, this is another indication something's wrong.
Count how many passengers were in the other car. Get their names and phone numbers. It's common for people who weren't even in the vehicle to claim for injuries so ask to see the claim report and look to see if additional names have been added.
Take pictures or video of the other car's damage it received and its passengers. Meet with the adjuster, show them the pictures, and tell them you feel this was a staged accident. You must fight not to be deemed at-fault for the accident. If the adjuster doesn't agree with you, escalate it to the ombudsman in the insurance company. Don't wait until your policy renews.
Be suspicious if the tow truck driver recommends a particular repair facility without being asked. If a stranger tries to steer you to a body shop, doctor, chiropractor or lawyer, this too could be a sign of staging. Get the names, addresses and phone numbers of these service providers. Then give this information to your insurance company.
Car accidents are bad enough without being set up.. So make sure it really was an accident.