Cedric Stephens, Contributor
Last week's article - 'A tale of some fraudulent insurance claims that were paid!' - discussed some of the ways that dishonest persons stage motor-vehicle collisions. Their aim is to collect insurance moneys.
As we saw from Michael's mail, scam artists cause accidents that are anything but accidental. These kinds of collisions are the first of many elaborate steps to get insurers to pay them and/or their partners in crime millions of dollars as compensation for damage and/or personal injuries.
Insurance companies are not the only victims of the fraudsters. The costs of fraud are ultimately passed on from insurers to honest buyers in the form of higher premiums. Michael, for example, saw his premium more than double after his insurer decided to pay two personal-injury claims that had all of the signs that they were fake.
Today, I will discuss some of the things that motorists can do to protect themselves from the scammers.
The source of last week's information about staged accidents - http://www.dmv.org/insurance/how-to-handle-staged-car-accidents.php - argues that "Staged car accident scam artists are vulnerable to facts. The more information you provide (to insurers and to the police) the less inclined the scam artist will be to follow through with the charade." I say amen to that.
The photographs that Michael supplied to his insurers stopped one fraudster in his tracks. However, because of a combination of fear and inexperience on the part of the person who handled the case, the two personal-injury claims for J$900,000 were paid.
The plans of persons who stage accidents can be thwarted by always carrying a pen or pencil and paper in your vehicle; or, to use a 21st-century tool, a cell phone with a camera.
Smartphones with voice-activated notepads in addition to cameras and access to Google Maps can be very helpful in recording details about what happened, aiding faulty memories, providing preliminary information to determine liability and data to reconstruct accidents.
Peter R. Thom, president of Peter R. Thom and Associates Inc, a US consulting firm of automotive engineers, and Vernell M. Hance, a senior investigating engineer for the company - writing in PropertyCasualty360 - offer the following tips about taking accident scene photographs:
1. Photograph all the vehicles involved and their relative positions from all angles to establish the boundaries of the crash scene and the impact zone. Think about tracing the main points of a compass to catch all those angles.
2. Broaden the view and take photographs of the street layout, landmarks, traffic controls, and signage. Try to include pictures that show the vehicle's position relative to its closest landmark - investigators deployed later rely on such distinguishing details to help them reconstruct accident events accurately.
3. Focus on the damage sustained by all the vehicles involved in the crash. Photograph the vehicle's four corners, making sure to capture two sides of that vehicle in the viewfinder with each shot. Next, photograph each side of the vehicle straight on before focusing on documenting the damaged areas of the car. Take close-up photos of the damage and broader views for context.
4. Make sure also to take shots of the vehicles' identifying features like license plates and VIN numbers.
5. Look inside the vehicle and take photographs of any interior damage, deployed airbags, seat belts, and so forth.
6. Document roadside debris, marks, and gouges on the roadway; strewn vehicle parts; and anything else pertinent to the accident. Try to show the relationship of the vehicle(s) to the debris depicted in image.
The victim referred to in last week's article made a mistake. He assumed that there was only one occupant in the bus whose driver stopped to allow him to make a right turn or, if there were passengers in the vehicle, they did not suffer any injuries.
This was one of the things that I suspect may have led Michael's insurers to decide that even though they suspected that the personal injury claims were fraudulent, J$900,000 was a small price to pay get rid of them.
Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and free advice about the management of risks and insurance. firstname.lastname@example.org SMS/text message to 812-7233