Auto Accidents

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Many dishonest drivers will maneuver innocent motorists into auto accidents. The cars may only suffer a small dent, but the crooks still make large — and illegal — claims for car damage and fake injuries against your auto insurance company, or their own.

Often these accidents are staged by organized crime rings that bilk dozens of unsuspecting drivers.

The scams

Swoop and Squat
A suspect vehicle suddenly swoops in front of you and jams on the brakes, causing a rear-end collision. Often the suspect car has passengers who pretend to have painful back or neck injuries, even though the collision was at low speed. The driver and passengers then make large collision and injury claims against your auto policy, for example.

Drive Down
You're trying to merge into traffic, and a dishonest driver slows down and waves you forward. He then crashes into your car, but denies waving you into traffic and blames the accident on you. Crooked drivers may also wave you out of a parking space with the same come-on.

Sideswipe
Be careful if you're driving in the inner lane of a dual left-turn lane at a busy intersection. Crooks will deliberately ram you if you drift into the outer lane while turning.

Shady Helpers
A stranger may approach you at the crash site, or telephone you soon afterward. Maybe you just had an honest accident, or it was all a setup. Regardless, this stranger tries to convince you to get repairs at a specific auto-body shop, seek treatment from a certain doctor or chiropractor, or visit a lawyer he knows who can help you sue for injuries. Be careful — it may be a setup: That body shop may try to illegally pad your repair bill. The doctor or chiropractor may give you shoddy or no treatment, but bill the auto insurer thousands of dollars. The lawyer may encourage you to sue the auto insurer for thousands of dollars even if you have only minor or no injuries.

The price you pay

Record blemished
You have a costly claim on your insurance record — this could raise your auto premiums hundreds of dollars, or even mean your policy isn't renewed.

Victims terrorized, killed
Innocent drivers are terrorized, injured and even killed by these schemes. One entire family, including an infant daughter, died when their car was hit by a truck when a staged accident went wrong.

Life disrupted
Your life is disrupted as you deal with the seemingly endless details of car repairs, claim settlement, police reports, lawyers, possible lawsuits and other problems.

Premiums rise
Everyone's auto premiums rise because insurance companies pass the costs of bogus claims onto honest policyholders.

At the accident scene

  • Never tailgate — allow plenty of space between your car and the car ahead of you. This will give you ample time to stop if the lead car suddenly jams on its brakes.
  • Look beyond the car in front of you while driving. Apply your brakes if you see traffic slowing.
  • Count how many passengers were in the other car if you're in a collision. Get their names, phone numbers and driver's license — more people may file claims than were in the car. Also get the car's license number. Note: Keep a pen and paper in your glove compartment so you're always ready.
  • How do the passengers behave? Did they stand around and joke, but suddenly act "injured" when the police arrived?
  • Keep a disposable camera in your glovebox. Take pictures of the other car, the damage it received — and the passengers.
  • Call the police to the scene. Get a police report with the officer's name, even for minor damage. If the police report notes just a small dent or scratch, it'll be harder for crooks to later claim serious injuries or car damage.
  • Get involved if you're a witness. Watch for the warning signs of a scam, and help the honest victim with details.

After the accident

  • Contact the Salem Police Department if a stranger tries to steer you to an unknown body shop, doctor, chiropractor or lawyer. Give officials the names, addresses and phone numbers of these providers.
  • Only see medical and legal providers you know and trust, or at least ones that are recommended by people you trust. Never let yourself be suckered by a stranger off the streets.
  • Keep careful records of your medical treatments — dates, treatments given, and diagnoses. Compare your records against the statements you receive to make sure the bill wasn't padded or treatments outright fabricated.
  • Check out your doctor or lawyer. Contact your state medical licensing board to ensure your doctor is licensed and has no complaints. Contact the American Bar Association to see if your lawyer has been disciplined for unethical behavior.
  • Contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau if you suspect a scam. The toll-free number is 1-800-835-6422 (24 hours a day, seven days a week). Give license plate number, location of the accident, people involved, why you think this was a fraud, and as many other details as possible.