Portland auto insurance lawyers will fight as hard as they can when a client comes to them with injuries sustained through someone else’s negligence in a car accident. However, they are as adamantly opposed to auto insurance fraud as anyone else. They know that fraudsters make it that much more difficult for genuine cases to succeed and that the insurance companies are increasingly resorting to delaying or even denying genuine claims in the face of a spike in fraudulent claims.
In a recent New York lawsuit, it’s the insurance company making the big claim. Allstate Insurance is seeking the return of more than $6 million it paid out in no-fault personal injury claims. This wasn’t one or two cases of low-class con men pushing their luck. It was an organized scam being run by, among others, a physician, a professional medical corporation, a management company and a layperson operating without a license. The complaint filed by Allstate says:
- It paid no-fault benefits to its customers in good faith
- The person who both managed and secretly owned Richmond Radiology, P.C., in Staten Island, was never a licensed physician.
- This same person allegedly shared the proceeds of the companies’ provision of professional services to “injured” victims with others who were in on the wide-reaching scam.
Portland auto insurance lawyers say that increased levels of insurance fraud means increased costs in premiums for the honest motorists, and Allstate agrees. Krista Conte, an Allstate spokesperson, says honest drivers are essentially being forced to pay what she called a “fraud tax.” Conte says Allstate has had to file 38 separate fraud lawsuits in New York alone since 2003, seeking the return of a shocking $207 million in fraudulent claims the company unwittingly paid out.
Why the sudden increase in fraudulent claims?
The sad fact is, fraudulent insurance claims have long been a way for dishonest people to make what they saw as an easy few dollars, but it’s getting worse. A new study has shown that since the economic downturn, auto insurance fraud has become the second most costly form of American crime. The crime that takes first place is tax fraud.
Portland auto insurance lawyers offered some insights into why auto insurance fraud has suddenly seen a surge in “popularity” among the less scrupulous in our society. They say:
- Auto insurance fraud is very difficult to detect and even harder to prove.
- Fraudsters are becoming increasingly creative.
- Though insurance companies spend millions of dollars every year identifying new scams and prosecuting those responsible, they are at the moment at least fighting a losing battle.
Some scams are simple; others are much more elaborate. One of the more difficult to prove involves multiple drivers taking to the road and seeking out a completely innocent and unsuspecting driver. One or more of the fraudsters will make a maneuver that forces the “target” to crash into another of the fraudsters.
Another very common insurance fraud is claiming for damage to a vehicle that was actually inflicted quite intentionally by the owner of the car. These claims usually look quite innocent on the surface, but Portland auto insurance lawyers say insurance companies are increasingly carrying out far more intense investigations than ever before on even what appear to be totally legitimate claims.
The most common scams
Make no mistake; insurance fraud is costing every motorist more money than they should have to pay every year. One of the few ways you can protect yourself from these rising costs is to report any case where you suspect an insurance fraud may be in progress. Keep an eye out for these increasingly common auto accident fraud schemes:
- Staged accidents. Intentional rear-end collisions are a very common ploy.
- Phony or exaggerated injury claims, where a driver and passengers lie about injuries sustained in an accident. Portland auto insurance lawyers say many fraudsters claim for whiplash injuries they simply haven’t sustained.
- “Jump-ins” are claims made for injuries sustained by people who weren’t even in the vehicle when the accident occurred.
- Single-vehicle accidents often end up being described by the driver as mysterious hit-and-run cases, with the driver making a claim for injuries he or she may not have sustained.
- Torching a vehicle and collecting on the insurance. No one gets hurt? Portland auto insurance lawyers say everyone gets hurt—financially—in the form of increased premiums.
- Some people will add damage that was already present before the accident to a new claim.
- Another popular scam is agreeing to pay a body shop mechanic a few dollars on the side to raise the cost of the estimated repair bill.
- Unscrupulous medical providers have been found prescribing unnecessary treatment and padding bills for treatment actually received, to inflate the insurance pay-out.
What does fraud actually cost me?
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) claims no one escapes the fraudsters. The costs to honest users are both direct and hidden, and include:
- An additional $200 to $300 per year on the average premium
- Increased prices for goods and services from businesses who have seen their insurance rates dramatically increased
- Costly delays and reduced settlement offers to people who have been genuinely injured and are making completely legitimate claims of their own
- Ironically, honest people also have to bear the costs of employing special investigative units, used by the insurance companies to combat fraudulent claims.
If you have witnessed what you believe to be a potential auto insurance fraud, you can contact the NICB at 1-800-835-6422. You won’t have to give your name, and you could even be in line for a cash reward.
In Oregon, if you’ve been the victim of what you believe to be some kind of insurance scam like any of those described above, as well as contacting the NICB you should also talk to an established firm of Portland auto insurance lawyers who have vast experience in dealing with insurance companies. It’s in the interest of a good personal injury attorney to root out the just cases and completely reject those that are anything less than totally legitimate. Talk to them if you suspect something’s amiss.