It happens more than you think - a driver causes an accident to collect the insurance money - and you could become the victim.
The Sudden Stop:
- "It happens like this," says Hartford Special Investigations Manager Odie Waters, "I'm driving along, minding my own business, in rush hour traffic, and the car in front of me inexplicably slams on (the) brakes. I read-end that car and I get blamed for the accident." The driver of the first car will claim that a "phantom" dog or child ran into the road, or that the car in front of them had stopped suddenly, although that car will not be involved in the accident. Any witnesses will have driven off long before the policy arrive, and it's nearly impossible to prove a dog didn't dart out.
Inattentive Targets in Traffic:
- The drivers in such a scam cruise clogged highways and city streets, watching in the rear view mirror, looking for someone not paying attention. In the past, two cars might employ a tactic called the "swoop and squat," where one car would crowd the victim from behind and another would stop suddenly in front.
The Phantom Wave:
- Another type of staged accident can occur when a driver is trying to merge. The scam artist will wave you into the lane and then crash into the side of your vehicle. This can also happen when someone is backing out of a parking space. A second car will stop and wave the first car out, as if waiting for the space, but then drive into the first vehicle. In both cases, the scam artist denies stopping or waving, and police find the victim at fault for failing to yield the right of way.
Tips to Avoid Staged Accidents
How you can avoid a staged accident:
- Pay attention to the road - no applying make-up, shaving, texting, or talking on cell phone.
- Be wary of "beater" cars - especially if they are changing lanes suspiciously. Even if the driver has no ill-intent, the condition of the car might mean a poor driver
- Maintain a safe following distance
- Call policy and the insurance company promptly after an accident. If the other driver discourages you from doing so, it is all the more important to call promptly
- Tell your claims handler if the accident seems suspicious