Steven Barcus

A new study from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) shows that questionable claims for fraudulent, staged accidents went up 46 percent from 2007 to 2009. While questionable claims have risen, the overall rate of bodily injury and personal injury protection claims have fallen.

According to the report, there were 4,802 questionable claims involving staged accidents in 2009. These claims usually involve several vehicles plotting to set up an innocent driver for an accident in which injuries are feigned. The top three states were Florida (1,446), New York (765) and California (622). The top three cities were New York (618), Tampa (425) and Orlando (188). The NICB adds that nearly one out of every four phony car accidents in the U.S. came out of Florida.

The two most common scams include the “swoop and squat,” which involves three staged vehicles, and the “left turn drive down,” which targets female drivers in and around entrances to parking areas in shopping malls. The schemes are usually so complex and so precise that the innocent victims truly believe they are at fault. Staged accidents have become such a problem that the NICB has videos on its website to expose how these carefully choreographed scams work.

According to Thomas Lohmann, the New York-area operations director for the crime bureau, in a recent article for the New York Times, the false claims are run by organized crime, and the perpetrators are able to make as much as $200,000 for one “accident” with four “victims.” Lohmann also explained that the “victims” often work with a doctor who is part of the scam and certifies the injuries.

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