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Induced accidents and how you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim
Car insurance fraud is not a victimless crime - it costs all honest policy holders something like £50 on every annual premium.
Car insurance fraud is not just a financial crime either - in the case of so called 'crash for cash', or the more recent similar phenomenon ‘flash for cash’, fraudsters target innocent motorists, putting their lives at risk.
They deliberately cause accidents with the intention of making as much money as possible. The proceeds of subsequent fraudulent and exaggerated insurance claims for vehicle damage, personal injury, and other 'costs' resulting from the 'accident' are used to fund other, often more serious crimes.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau was set up in 2006 to clamp down on organised insurance fraud. In 2013 the IFB published a report into the 'crash for cash' problem in which it estimated the annual cost to be £392 million with an estimated 1 in 7 of all personal injury claims being linked to suspected cash for crash scams.
In most road traffic 'accidents' where one vehicle is hit from behind by another, it is the driver of the car behind that is deemed to be at fault. So in 'crash for cash' scams the aim is to deliberately stage or induce an accident for which the other (following) driver can be blamed.
Fraudsters may also deliberately crash two vehicles together in private or even make a completely fabricated claim for a 'ghost' accident that never happened at all. But of most concern, because it puts innocent members of the public at risk, is the induced accident.
Gangs will target the vehicles most likely to have insurance and drivers least likely to cause a scene so mums with children in the car, older drivers, well-maintained cars and cars with private plates may all be at higher risk.
'Flash for cash' is a more recent phenomenon in which the fraudsters flash their headlights at an innocent driver, apparently to beckon you out of a junction, shops or petrol filling station, only to speed up and induce a crash for which you will be blamed – “I was driving along normally and you just pulled out without looking!”
If you've been involved in a collision that you suspect may have been deliberately induced:
More and more drivers are installing video cameras in their cars to protect against this type of fraud or even to protect themselves against possible accusations of careless driving offences such as tailgating or lane-hogging.
Cameras continuously record HD quality video to a memory card, constantly overwriting previously recorded footage. If you're involved in an incident the related footage can be saved for viewing on a pc together with speed and gps location data and shared with the police or your insurer.
Cameras can give good protection against crash for cash scams and can be helpful in the event of an accident to help establish who was involved and who was to blame but should not be used for vigilante purposes. Video footage is useful to support an insurance claim and the development of this technology is welcomed and supported by insurers some of whom are offering premium discounts where cameras are fitted and used.
(7 October 2013)