Avoid Crash for Cash Whiplash Scams
“Crash for Cash” whiplash scams are an increasing feature within the news of late, so what exactly is “Crash for Cash” and how does it affect those involved?
“Crash for Cash” Scams are organised by criminal gangs and encompass a whole range of fraudulent claims ranging from an entirely fictitious accident to, believe it or not, culprits endangering their own lives, and innocent road users, by deliberately causing an accident solely for financial gain.
The culprits will stage an accident in order to present a whiplash claim against the victim’s Insurance Company for an award of compensation, not only for whiplash injuries, but for a whole range of other accident related losses, which can equate to thousands of pounds. This is otherwise known as ‘Insurance Fraud’.
So with Insurance experts estimating that around 60% of all whiplash claims now arise from “Crash for Cash” scams, what should you do if you find yourself in an accident you believe has been caused deliberately?
It is true to say that prevention is certainly cheaper than the cure, so in the first instance, take heed of the following pointers:
- Stay Alert
Although methods have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, it is useful to be aware of the typical circumstances which hint of fraud.
Commonly, staged accidents involve targeting an innocent road user and intentionally causing a collision with such circumstances that it is made to look as though the innocent is actually the one at fault.
If you find yourself in an accident where a driver, for apparently no reason, slams on their brakes, causing you to collide with the rear of their vehicle, think fraud!
If you think that the culprits brake lights were out, giving you no warning of their intention to stop, think fraud!
Similarly, if someone signals you to exit a junction and you unwittingly oblige, with the driver then speeding up to collide with your vehicle, think fraud!
In order for your representatives to prove an allegation of fraud, the evidence must be ‘clear and compelling’. The actions you take immediately after an accident are crucial, and the evidence you obtain and preserve is essential.
We all watch the occasional Police drama from time to time, so if you do find yourself involved in a suspicious accident, think FBI:
1. Call the Police and make your suspicions known. Police reports are vital in a claim where there is a suspicion of fraud or any issue on liability. A detailed recording of fraud suspicions within the report, and any action which the police take thereafter in this respect, could ensure this is an open and closed case;
2. Record everything about the accident; dates, times, locations, weather conditions, all names and addresses, registration numbers, makes/models, insurance details, descriptions of all occupants, areas of damage and any pre-existing damage. Your account of the accident may result in not only justice for you as an individual, but may unearth an entire fraud ring, ensuring that they are brought to justice and innocent road users are protected in future;
3. Mug Shot! Hopefully this is what the fraudsters will be having as a result of your foresight. Most people these days carry smart phones, take plenty of photographs focusing on areas of damage, the resting places of the vehicles post accident and, if at all possible, of the occupants of the vehicle involved. If you have a video recording facility, record all exchanges post-accident. Such claims can take a long time to resolve and memory fades with the passage of time. Such evidence ensures absolute clarity on the immediate aftermath;
4. Witnesses. An independent witness can make or break a case. Get full names and addresses of anyone who witnessed the accident;
5. CCTV: Have a look round see if there are any cameras. Most importantly, ask the police to obtain the footage immediately and let your representative know as a priority, as footage tends to be destroyed within 30 days;
6. Dash Board Cameras. Okay, this measure tends to be a little extreme, but for commercial vehicles and frequent road users, this could be a God-send. “Crash for Cash” fraudsters target commercial vehicles as there is a good chance they will be insured, which makes it easier to claim for whiplash against them. Dash Board Cameras are becoming increasingly popular with commercial drivers and cyclists alike. If you spend a lot of time on the road, consider getting one installed;
7. Have you been injured as a result of the accident? Get medical attention and claim Personal Injury. The Law of Tort was introduced to protect and compensate for these negligent acts; and
8. Contact your Insurance Company and a Legal Representative immediately. Early advice will strengthen your chances of success.
There are a number of organisations which focus on combating insurance fraud. As a result of their investment, increasing amounts of “Crash for Cash” culprits are being brought to justice, not only with fines, but with significant prison sentences.
In the recent case of R –v- McKenzie 2013, the defendant was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment after fraudulently claiming whiplash from a collision which never actually occurred. The Judge handed the deterrent sentence owing to the prevalence of fraudulent claims and to ensure the message was clear that such claims will not be tolerated by the Courts.
For the majority, whiplash scams result in an increase in insurance premiums by, on average, £40-£60 per year.
For the individuals concerned, there is a significant chance that you will have yourself become injured in the staged accident, and the aftermath of an accident and the process involved can be painful, traumatic and stressful.
The Law of Tort was introduced to protect and compensate the innocent against negligent acts but, owing to the increase in “Crash for Cash” whiplash scams, the Government has brought in several changes to legislation to deter such claims, solely with a view to preventing fraud.
Sadly, it appears that the “Crash for Cash” backlash will not only continue to endanger lives and affect innocent road users, but will also continue to act as ammunition for Insurance Companies and the Government in their push for further reforms which will inevitably restrict access to justice for the innocent Claimant.