Beware of the fake car crashers

Staged road accidents can put up your insurance premiums, warns Helen Monks

Most motorists do all they can to avoid accidents and keep their car insurance premiums down. But the increasing menace of staged accidents threatens to draw even the safest of drivers into risky and costly situations. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says the amount of claims made on the back of staged accidents is unknown, but fears that numbers may be on the up.

Most motorists do all they can to avoid accidents and keep their car insurance premiums down. But the increasing menace of staged accidents threatens to draw even the safest of drivers into risky and costly situations. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says the amount of claims made on the back of staged accidents is unknown, but fears that numbers may be on the up.

The ABI's spokesman, Malcolm Tarling, says: "Staged accidents include incidents where someone has bought a scrap car, deliberately causes a minor accident and submits a large claim, and organised and dangerous frauds that make innocent motorists the third party in an accident."

Semi-staged accidents are typically executed by opportunists who exaggerate their claims or invent extra passengers to push up their claims when they hit, or are hit by, other motorists. The insurer More Than gives an example of an incident where there was really only a driver involved in an accident with one of its policyholders, but some phantom passengers with whiplash miraculously emerged, driving up the size of the claim.

Zurich gives the example of a third party involved in a collision caused by one of its policyholders, which resulted in some damage to their vehicle. The third party tried to persuade the accident management company dealing with the repairs that their car was a write-off. Investigations revealed the third party had recently been involved in a serious accident that was their fault. They failed in their attempt to make the other driver culpable for the old damage and the claim was thrown out.

Insurers warn you are more likely to be a victim in certain areas. Direct Line's motor spokesperson, Emma Holyer, says: "Hotspots include Liverpool, Leeds and the M62 area."

The consequence for the driver is as it would be for a genuine accident: they may have to make a claim on their insurance, lose their no-claims bonus and see their risk profile rise, along with their premium. But if a Direct Line customer is hit by an uninsured driver, the policy holder will not lose their no-claims bonus.

A Zurich spokesperson says: "If our customer had been hit by someone trying to stage an accident, we would pay for the damage to their car and refuse the claim of the other person.

"If our customer decided to take it to court to seek a prosecution against the person who ran into them, we would seek the money from the other person's insurer and our customer would not lose their no-claims discount."

WHAT TO DO

If you are involved in a suspicious incident - a motorist driving erratically, play-acting injuries, or apparently on friendly terms with a "witness" - ask the police to attend the scene and contact your insurer as soon as possible.

Try to record as much information as possible at the scene of the incident. Carry a disposable camera in your car and photograph damage done to your car and the other vehicle involved. Note the names and numbers of passengers and witnesses, and also whether the other driver was able to drive their vehicle away.

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