Bogus car accidents are on the rise. Often occurring at roundabouts or tricky junctions, these are accidents staged by individuals who are intent on forcing a payout for vehicle damage or personal injury from blameless drivers or their insurers. Police data and insurance company statistics suggest that criminal gangs often mastermind these incidents.
How are insurance companies tackling the problem?
Cash for crashes, as they are sometimes known, is an issue that insurance companies take seriously. One of the biggest players in the industry, Aviva, reported detecting an average of £250,000 of bogus claims for every day of 2016. The majority of these were claims from third parties not insured with the company. Aviva has gone on record as saying it defends such claims vigorously and seeks to prosecute the claimants wherever possible.
As a driver, is there anything I can do?
Above all, you need to be aware of the risk. Relying on an insurance company to take care of any claim may solve the problem in the short term but will result in the loss of any no-claims bonus and almost inevitably lead to a rise in insurance premiums. There are also several sensible ways of protecting yourself. Good road awareness and a knowledge of “defensive driving” techniques are the most practical.
This involves knowing which vehicles are behind, in front and to the side of you at all times. It also means being prudent and carefully with stopping distances, and ensuring you leave adequate room to bring your vehicle to a halt. Additionally, if another driver waves or flashes you into a gap, make sure you use your judgement before you move. Dash cams are another measure you might like to consider because of their potential to act as a deterrent.
What should I do if I am involved in a crash?
If an incident does occur, do not admit any liability at the scene. This is good practice whether or not you think the incident is suspicious or might have been staged. Whatever the circumstances, you should exchange names, telephone numbers, vehicle details and insurance company contacts.
If possible, it is also advisable to photograph any damage to either vehicle while still on the scene of the accident. Try to do this discreetly if you can. When notifying your insurance company, do not be afraid to pass on any suspicions about the cause or nature of the incident.
How can we help?
Being involved in any kind of car accident can be upsetting, even if you are not physically hurt. As well as the financial cost, the repercussions can also be difficult to negotiate. These issues are compounded if you feel that the accident itself was a scam and that fraudsters have targeted you.
However, if your insurance company feels that the other driver’s claim is fraudulent or exaggerated, it may apply to court to have the claimant committed to prison for contempt of court. Our experienced Contempt of Court team, led by Philip Walsh, provides advice on all aspects of civil contempt of court issues and would be glad to help with any questions you may have.
Finally, if you are facing proceedings for civil proceedings for contempt of court, you should note that the Legal Aid Agency treats it as akin to a criminal matter. This means that non-means tested legal aid may be available.