Imagine you’re driving the children to school when the car in front suddenly slams on its brakes. There is nothing you can do to avoid a collision, so you crash into the back of the vehicle. Of course, it could be a genuine accident. Perhaps the driver stopped quickly because a dog ran into the road. But the accident could also be deliberate – a so-called ‘crash for cash’.
Low-lifes hit all-time highDeliberate accidents are at an all-time high, up by 51% last year. Organised gangs are driving the increase in crash-for-cash cases. So far this year, insurer Aviva reports a 21% rise in organised fraud over 2013. The insurer now has more than 6,500 suspicious injury claims linked to known fraud rings. Crash-for-cash fraudsters deliberately cause accidents, usually so they can claim compensation for whiplash. So, the car in front will suddenly slam on its brakes. Or it might accelerate away from traffic lights or a pedestrian crossing only to then brake sharply. Some criminals even disconnect their brake lights so you get little or no warning that they are about to stop.
Flash in the pan?‘Flash for cash’ is a more recent phenomenon. Here, fraudsters flash their headlights at an innocent driver, apparently to let the car out of a junction, or petrol station. They will then speed up to cause a crash and blame the unwitting motorist.
Soft targetsOrganised gangs choose their targets with care. They want to meet with as little resistance as possible so they tend to pick on mums with children in the car and older drivers. Some areas are also more dangerous than others. Birmingham and Luton are the UK’s crash for cash hotspots, according to Aviva. North London is in third place. In the past, Manchester was awarded the dubious honour of the number one slot, but it has dropped to fourth position after a number of successful prosecutions in the area.
Whiplash crackdownAn example was a case earlier this week when two men were jailed for their part in a scam which involved a car braking sharply in front of a bus, with a clutch of bogus whiplash claims totaling £500,000 produced by bus passengers as a consequence. As well as the risk of genuine injury or worse, crash-for-cash also hurts our pockets. Fraud adds an estimated £400 million to the cost of car insurance, or around £14 to every motor premium. Fraudulent motor claims detected in Birmingham postcodes alone totalled more than £4.7m through August this year, so you can see the size of the problem.
Rehab, not compoInsurers want the government to consider treating minor whiplash injuries with rehabilitation, instead of cash compensation. Tom Gardiner, Head of Claims Fraud for Aviva’s UK and Ireland General Insurance business, said: “The fight against fraud begins with an effective deterrent. In addition to more prosecutions and stronger sentences, we need to remove the financial incentive for minor whiplash claims. “We are asking the government to consider compensating short-term whiplash with rehabilitation, instead of cash. Would crash for cash exist if there was no money in it? We don’t think so.”
Tips to survive crash-for-cash
- Remain vigilant. Stay alert and keep your distance from the car in front.
- Be particularly watchful at roundabouts and slip roads.
- If you notice that the brake lights on the car in front don’t work, remain cautious.
- You should also be suspicious if the car in front slows down or speeds up for no apparent reason.
- Be wary, too, if the passengers seem unduly interested in you and your car as they might be looking for a good time to induce an accident.
- A car with obvious damage to the rear is another tell-tale sign.
- If you are involved in an accident that you suspect is fraudulent, call the police immediately and don’t admit liability to the other driver, passenger or anyone else.
- Note down the make, model and registration number of the other vehicle as well as the time, date, location and weather conditions.
- Note the full name, address, date of birth and gender of the driver and passengers and the number of passengers in the other car, including their positions in the vehicle.
- Record the names and contact details of any independent witnesses.
- Take pictures or a video if you can, capturing any damage - or lack of it - to the other vehicle.
- It’s also worth noting whether the driver of the other vehicle or any passengers complain of injury.
- Some fraudsters are tutored by organised gangs, so you might be on your guard if they seem overly prepared or read from a script.
- Don’t forget to contact your insurer immediately after the accident to advise them of any suspicions.
Top 10 postcodes for ‘crash for cash’ by number of accidents:
- Birmingham (B)
- Luton (LU)
- North London (N)
- Manchester (M)
- Leeds (LS)
- Uxbridge (UB)
- Harrow (HA)
- North West London (NW)
- Bradford (BD)
- Slough (IG)