Car accidents are an unfortunate fact of life. The majority of people, at some point in their lives, will likely be involved in a car accident. It could be a minor fender bender, or, sometimes, a serious crash involving lawyers, doctors, hospitals and repair shops.
A car accident can be a physical and mental pain. Besides the injuries resulting from the actual crash, your insurance premiums may go up, you'll have to pay for car repairs and doctor visits, and you may be involved in a lawsuit as a result.
In addition, car crash-related injuries are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of one to 34. From Car-Accidents.com:
Car Crash Stats: There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. The financial cost of these crashes is more than $230 billion dollars. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States - one death every 13 minutes.
What We Can Do to Reduce this Impact?
The CDC's fact sheet shows ways to reduce the human and economic toll of car accidents. Suggestions include:
- Improve child passenger safety
- Improve teen driver safety and skills
- Reduce drunk driving
- Increase seat belt use
What about Fraudulent Accidents?
Besides the high costs associated with accidents, there are also the costs of fake accidents and insurance scams. Each year, insurance companies spend millions of dollars defending themselves against fraudulent car accident claims. These include purposeful, fraudulent crashes and real accidents where people fake or exaggerate injuries to get more insurance money.
While insurance companies are the ones who initially pay these expenses, you, as the consumer, eventually pick up the tab. Higher costs end up being shifted to the customers who end up with higher premiums to make up for these costs.
Such scams also affect your record when the other party files a report with the police and the insurance company, and your insurance premium usually increases.
What Are Typical Car Accident Scams?
These types of accidents are caused by con artists faking the entire accident, and there are often several people involved. Some examples include:
- Many insurance companies don't bother investigating small claims under $1,000, allowing con artists to use lawyers and mechanics to submit claims for accidents that never occurred and request payment
- A con artist will report a hit and run accident to their insurance agent, seeking money, when an accident never occurred
- Using tactics to cause accidents such as quickly breaking so the car behind slams into the con artist. The passengers and the con artist then all file for injuries, oftentimes excessive. This could also include fake injuries and a doctor working with the group submitting false health insurance claims
- Causing an accident, and then using a fake witness to report false information about the other driver, like the driver ran a red light, or was speeding
What Should I Do If I Think I'm Being Scammed?
If you think that you are a victim of a car accident scam, there are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Keep a disposable camera (or use the camera on your phone), and pen and paper in your car. If you're involved in an accident, take as many pictures as you can of the cars and the passengers and record as much information as you can about the accident and injuries
- Pay particular attention to whether the passengers were wearing seatbelts and whether they appeared injured or harmed
- Check to see if there are witnesses who can confirm what happened. Get their names and contact information in case you need to reach them in the future
- File a police report
- Contact your insurance agent or company
What Should I Do if I'm Involved in a Car Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident, fraudulent or not, you should exchange the required information with the other driver, such as driver's license information, car registration and insurance; get the names of all passengers in each car and their contact information. If there are serious injuries or you suspect a scam, call the police.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Must I wait for police to arrive at any accident scene? Should I?
- Can an insurance company raise my premiums if I'm not at fault for an accident?
- What should I say to the other parties in the immediate aftermath of an accident?
1CDC Web site, Motor Vehicle Safety, available at http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/index.html (visited October 15, 2010).