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