Officials expect that car insurance rates in Florida will increase by an average of $80 this year. Why? Florida leads the nation in staged car wrecks, and these insurance scams are costing Floridians billions of dollars.
As the economy has declined, the number of fake accidents in Florida has been growing. Between 2009 and 2010, there was a 77 percent increase in the number of staged accidents. Why does this happen?
Some people believe that Florida’s no-fault auto accident insurance law makes it easier for criminals to get by with staging accidents in Florida. No-fault insurance means that insurance companies must pay up to $10,000 per victim for injuries, no matter who is at fault. If two cars with four occupants each stage a crash in West Palm Beach, the insurance company could pay $80,000 in damages.
However, staged accidents can be dangerous. No one can predict how an accident will turn out. In 1997, an entire family was killed when their station wagon was crushed between two trucks staging an accident on a California freeway.
You can’t prevent staged accidents, but you can avoid becoming a victim. Here are six tips from Craig Goldenfarb, an autoaccident lawyer in West Palm Beach:
- Avoid tailgating. A common staged accident scenario is the “swoop and squat.” A driver suddenly pulls in front of another car and then slams on his brakes to cause an accident. Leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you so you have time to stop if the other driver unexpectedly stops.
- If you are involved in a Florida car crash, call the police and file an accident report. Do this even if damage is minimal. This makes it more difficult for the dishonest driver to intentionally damage his car in order to collect a larger insurance settlement.
- Use your camera or cell phone to take pictures of the scene. Photograph everyone involved in the accident, including any passengers. Photograph the damage to both cars. If the other driver objects, ask the officer at the scene to help you.
- Get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, and car insurance information. Ask for his driver’s license number and vehicle registration information. Write down his license plate number and the make, model, and color of his vehicle.
- Remember that any doctors, lawyers, or tow-truck drivers at the scene may also be part of the scam. Never allow your vehicle to be towed by a company that you didn’t call to the scene.
- Never agree to settle with cash, even if you think the accident might be your fault. Report the accident to your own insurance company.
- If you were seriously injured, you may want to discuss your accident with a car accident lawyer in West Palm Beach. If you believe you were part of a staged accident scam, he may be able to help you find evidence to prove your claim.
The Law Offices of Craig Goldenfarb offer free consultations to Florida accident victims.