Insurance fraud is a serious offense in Arizona, and one of the most common types of insurance fraud is the staged accident.
Criminals stage auto accidents in order to obtain undeserved insurance payouts. Of course, insurers pay close attention to all of their payouts in order to catch fraudulent claims as soon as possible. After all, it’s the insurance agencies who are seen as losing the most in these situations.
In reality, however, another party is often instigated when a criminal stages an accident for a fraudulent insurance payout, and that’s the individual or organization who is said to be at-fault for the accident — the party whose insurance pays out the claim. This could be you.
Below, we’ll outline everything you need to know about staged auto accidents in Arizona, including what you can do if you think you’ve fallen victim to such a crime.
What Is a Staged Accident?
Insurance fraud occurs when a claimant makes a false or exaggerated claim with an insurance agency — either their own insurer or another party’s. A staged accident is a type of insurance fraud.
In a staged accident, several criminal-minded individuals make a pre-organized plan to stage an auto accident in which it will appear that another innocent party was at-fault. After the accident occurs, the group who supposedly incurred injuries in the accident will file numerous claims with the innocent at-fault party’s insurance.
Here’s an example called the “swoop and squat”:
Let’s say you are the innocent driver, just trying to get to work on an average weekday.
Traffic is heavy on the freeway, and vehicles are constantly merging on. Suddenly, the car in front of you breaks abruptly and comes to a complete stop because a car had dangerously cut in front of them as they merged onto the highway.
You try to brake and avoid hitting the car, but you’ve no chance, and instead, you slam into their rear.
While you might assume that this is simply an unfortunate accident, this is actually one of the most common staged accidents, and it even has a name: The “swoop and squat.”
In this scam, once the supposedly injured party has obtained your insurance information, they will file multiple claims in order to get your insurance to pay out large sums of money.
Where Do Staged Accidents Tend to Occur?
You’ll often see this type of insurance fraud in no-fault states.
While exact definitions vary, no-fault states are basically those that do not require you to prove fault in another driver in order to receive an insurance payout for injuries incurred in an accident. Instead, the process is more streamlined and, in many ways, more direct.
In Arizona, which is not a no-fault state (it is a fault-based state), staged accidents are still quite common. Many of the staged accidents involve multiple parties. As opposed to one party accusing another party of causing an accident that they, in fact, orchestrated, Arizona sees a lot of staged accidents involving literal crime rings of numerous actors who all get payouts once the grift is successful.
For example, in the example above, a “runner” may arrive on the scene. “Runners” are individuals involved in the scam who “just happened to be passing by” and will recommend that the injured parties be checked out by a doctor. But the doctor will also be in on the grift. They will diagnose injuries that are difficult to prove, thusly providing the perfect “evidence” that the “injured” parties were indeed injured by your “reckless driving.”
How to Spot a Staged Accident
The real victims of staged accidents are those drivers who are pinned with the fault in a serious auto accident. But it can be hard to know if an accident you are involved in is indeed a staged accident — or just an unfortunate event.
To help you discern the veracity of an accident, look for these signs, which may indicate foul play:
- Sudden stops that come out of nowhere
- A vehicle loaded with people who all seem to have medical issues after the accident
- Individuals who complain incessantly of injuries even though the accident didn’t seem that severe
- Seeing “jump-ins” when it suddenly looks as though individuals are jumping in and out of nearby cars (or coming out of nowhere) so that it appears there were more passengers in the car you hit than there really were
- “Runners” or “cappers” who turn up suddenly at the scene of the accident and try to get you or others to do things like see a doctor or call a particular attorney.
- Other witnesses who make phony claims
- No interest in calling the police from the other party
What you should do in the event of an auto accident you are involved in:
- Call the police immediately
- Start documenting everything immediately with your smartphone or a camera
- Do not listen to and avoid supposed witnesses and “runners” who suddenly appear at the scene
- Call an attorney if you suspect any sort of foul play
Are You Concerned You Were Targeted in a Staged Accident? Contact Petersen Johnson Today
At Petersen Johnson in Phoenix, our primary goal and the cornerstone of our firm is to stand up for the rights of traffic accident victims.
If you believe you may have fallen victim to a staged accident, you have the right to prove fraud and seek damages, not only for your personal injuries and pain and suffering, but for any additional expenses such as damage to your vehicle, insurance payouts, and increased premiums.
Our attorneys at Petersen Johnson are on your side. Contact us today at 602-910-4952 to arrange a free case evaluation.