Operation Twisted Metal” , a three year investigation completed with the arrest of fourteen individuals caught staging car crashes. This joint effort included several organizations: FBI, California Department of Insurance, San Diego Police Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, many types of insurance fraud have rapidly increased in the past two years since the recession began. Staged car accident cases are up 34%, suspicious car thefts/fires are up 27%, as well as many other doubtful insurance claims.
There are estimates that staged accidents here in California cost the taxpayer, on average, about $200 million a year. The Los Angeles metro area ranks third nationwide in staged accidents; behind Tampa and Brooklyn. It seems hard to imagine that people would intentionally get into an auto accident and risk personal injury.
Recognizing some common staged accident schemes can assist you in potentially avoiding these types of situations. “Hammer & nail” and “Swoop and Squat” are two of the most common staged car accidents.
The “hammer” car is generally the car causing the impact. It is often abandoned after an accident. The “nail” car is usually filled with passengers who then file inflated claims to their insurance companies.
The “Swoop and Squat” usually involves two cars and they frequently target a single occupancy automobile so there are no witnesses to the collision. The “squat” car usually contains two people, and then positions it in front of the victims’ car. Then they slowly close the distance between you and the other vehicle. Then the “swoop” vehicle quickly changes lanes in front of the “squat” vehicle and stops suddenly. The innocent party rear ends the “squat” car and the “swoop” vehicle typically leaves the scene. The suspects in the “squat” vehicle innocently state that “this vehicle came out of nowhere and forced me to brake”.
Here are a few tips if you suspect you have been in a staged accident:
· Call the authorities immediately · Stay at the scene until a police report has been filed and do not accept responsibility for the accident.
· Get as much information as possible; driver’s license numbers, names, addresses, count the individuals in the other car and note injuries and · Take pictures with your cell phone. Often times these professionals will dispute the injuries, car damages and the number of persons involved.
· Allow plenty of space between your car and the car ahead of you. This will give you ample time to stop if the car in front of you suddenly jams on its brakes.
· Look beyond the car in front of you while driving and be defensive. Apply your brakes slowly if you see traffic slowing.
· Try to keep a pen and paper handy and write as many details about the accident, if possible.
· These schemes typically target owners of new cars, older drivers and solo occupants of vehicles.
Most importantly, do not believe for one minute that all Los Angeles and Orange County accidents, lawyers and doctors participate in such scams. An an auto accident attorney’s office in Orange County with over 35 years experience, we know these arrests represent less than 1% of all claims. I applaud the agencies for delivering justice, but most accidents and victims are really hurt from accidents. We need to make sure they receive fair compensation. Call us if you have been the victim of an accident at 1 866 981-5596.