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March 2004

Staged Vehicle Collisions

You and anyone else who drive company-owned vehicles could be a prime target for a staged vehicle collision. Dwight Clinton, Director of Universal Underwriters' Special Investigations Unit (SIU), says individuals who commit this type of insurance fraud are looking for drivers who appear to be fully insured and are not accompanied by passengers who could serve as witnesses. Company vehicles, luxury and new cars are among their favorite targets.

Setting the scene
Perpetrators orchestrate collisions involving unsuspecting motorists and team up with dishonest doctors, lawyers and auto repair shop operators who inflate injuries and damage incurred in the accidents. Often, bogus witnesses are positioned near the collision to support the criminal's account and contradict the innocent driver's testimony.

In many cases, criminals will injure themselves or claim soft tissue injuries, which are difficult to dispute, to collect on insurance claims. The professionals involved in the scams get the majority of each claim; the cooperating passengers receive a small payout.

The following are examples of the most common staged collision schemes that we have seen.

Swoop and squat
A pair of perpetrators orchestrates this accident. A "swoop" vehicle suddenly cuts in front of a "squat" vehicle, forcing it to abruptly stop to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, a third unsuspecting motorist has little or no time to react and hits the squat car in front of him.

Drive down
An unsuspecting driver tries to merge into traffic. The suspect driver yields and waves to the innocent driver to proceed with the merge. As the innocent driver merges, the suspect driver intentionally drives into the victim's car and denies waving him or her to proceed.

Hit and run
A suspect driver uses a damaged vehicle and claims to be the victim of a hit and run. Police are often called to verify the damage.

Paper accidents
An owner fabricates an accident report to collect insurance money for a vehicle with pre-existing damage.

Side swipe
Perpetrators target an innocent driver in a dual left-turn lane of a busy intersection. If an unsuspecting victim in the inner lane drifts into the outer lane, the perpetrators intentionally force a collision.

Be prepared
If you are in a vehicle accident, take a couple precautions - just in case the accident was staged.

•Keep an accident report form in company vehicles. (If you are a Universal Underwriters' customer, ask your representative for a supply of Accident Assistance Guides.) Require your employees to complete the form for every accident, regardless of how minor it is. Provide opposing driver and passenger identification, number of people in the vehicle, descriptions of claimant vehicles, license plate numbers, amount and location of damage, and pre-existing damage.

Dwight says this information is critical. "Many times the police officer will not complete a report if there are no claims of injury," he explains. "And if you don't have any documentation, you have no way to rebut the other driver's claim. It's a lot more powerful to have an accident report with notes taken at the scene."

•Keep a disposable camera in every company-owned vehicle. "In the event of an accident - even if it's minor - take photos of the vehicles involved. The photos will show damage or, just as important, the lack of damage," Dwight says.

You may not be able to avoid becoming the target of a staged vehicle collision, but you can be prepared for one. Keep an accident report form and disposable camera in your vehicle at all times. Require everyone else who drives company vehicles to do the same.

For information about how Universal Underwriters Group’s Special Account Services Division can help meet the special needs of your automotive recycling business, call 1-800-840-8842, ext. 4845, visit our website at www.UniversalUnderwriters.com or e-mail to uuic.specaccts@zurichna.com.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. Please consult with qualified legal counsel to address your particular circumstances and needs. Universal Underwriters Group is not providing legal advice and assumes no liability concerning the information set forth above.


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