Was I the Victim of a Staged Car Accident?

By Tara Baukus MelloBankrate.com

Nobody wants to be involved in a car accident, right? That may be true if you are a law-abiding citizen who would prefer not to deal with the car insurance adjuster, auto body shop, and miscellaneous aches and pains. But for some criminals, being part of a car accident is all in a day's work. In reviewing more than 13,000 questionable insurance claims for a report released in January 2013, analysts at the National Insurance Crime Bureau found that nearly 34% were defined as "staged/caused accidents" involving personal autos.

Continue Reading Below

These types of "accidents" are not really accidents at all, with those in the car during the collision as well as the medical personnel who "treat" the injured parties involved in elaborate schemes to collect money from car insurance companies. This type of fraud does substantial damage, not just to the actual victims who must get their cars repaired and deal with potential injuries, but to all those insured by raising car insurance rates overall.

While it is upsetting to be involved in a car accident, pay careful attention to your first thoughts after the collision and the "instant replay" that you are likely to do in your mind in the minutes after the initial crash. If you find yourself wondering how it happened, that may be cause to wonder whether it was a staged accident. Perhaps the traffic was stop-and-go, but there really was no reason for the person in front of you to stop so suddenly. Or maybe you didn't see the driver's brake lights because he didn't have any.

It's important to document all car accidents, but if you think you may be a victim of a staged accident, your documentation could help break up a fraud ring, not to mention potentially remove points on your driving record and stop a car insurance rate hike. That's especially true if the accident appears to be your fault but was actually caused by the other driver. To document it, take photos of the area where the accident occurred from several angles. Photograph close-ups of damage to all the cars involved, other damage not caused by the accident, the license plates on the cars and, if possible, all the people involved. Using your cellphone is fine. Having photos will help augment your verbal report to the car insurance company and help investigators possibly uncover additional information to prove fraud.

In addition to contacting your insurance company, report it to the NICB by calling (800) 835-6422, visiting NICB.org, texting "fraud" to TIP411 or downloading the NICB Fraud Tips app for your iPhone or iPad.

More On This...

Get more news, money-saving tips and expert advice by signing up for a free Bankrate newsletter.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

Copyright 2013, Bankrate Inc.