Make Sure Your Car Accident Isn't Insurance Fraud

Insurance fraud is increasingly common these days. It takes many forms, but one of the most disturbing is "staged" accidents. These accidents, also called accident fraud, are exactly what they sound like. You're in a seemingly random collision that turns out to be not so random.

Now, you might be thinking, who in their right mind would stage a car accident just to get a bit of insurance money? You have to understand it's not a 'bit' of money -- or at least, it won't be once they're done. These criminals have all sorts of ways to amp up their accident fraud until insurance companies are paying through their teeth -- and trust me, your premiums will reflect it.

How it works and what to watch for

There are a number of common insurance fraud cases and scenarios, along with some warning signs that the so-called victim is taking you for a ride -- figuratively speaking, of course. Unfortunately, it's difficult to prove insurance fraud. But if you're suspicious, definitely bring it up to your insurance adjuster. Believe me, they'll want to know.

Here are some warning signs of accident fraud and staged accidents.

1. A driver motions for you to merge into a lane, then speeds up and hits you. They promptly deny that they motioned you forward, possibly to the point where you even doubt yourself.

2. The so called victims claim excessive amounts of injuries. Often there will be a number of people in the car, and they will all suffer from whiplash, time off work, mental trauma, and a host of other ailments that leave you and your bruised shoulder completely in the dust.

3. Convenient tow trucks, doctors, or lawyers just happen to arrive on the scene, even though no one's called them.

4. The victims pressure you to use specific doctors, sometimes going so far as suggesting they'll refuse to cooperate or sue you if you don't. Often these doctors will encourage you to file injury claims even if you're not hurt.

Unfortunately, many staged auto accidents take advantage of driver carelessness as well, or are not as easy to spot as these insurance fraud schemes. For example, the criminal may have a partner who 'cuts him off,' forcing him to slam on the breaks while the partner speeds away. Since no one knows who caused the accident, you're to blame.

Other scams involve having accomplices watch carefully for a moment of distraction before telling the driver to hit the brakes. We're all distracted sometimes -- but if you're talking on your cell phone, constantly fiddling with the radio, or applying makeup while you drive, you're wearing a big sign inviting these criminals to target you.

Unfortunately, this is a fast growing crime. Drive carefully and watch for the warning signs of staged accidents, and you may be able to prevent insurance fraud from damaging your own premiums.

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