Crash for cash fraudulent insurance claims are estimated to now be costing insurers £392m per year. It’s clearly a major problem, and not just for the inconvenience, but the emotional cost to those involved in such accidents – as well as the more serious results of a road accident that should never have happened in the first place.
We are now being warned about ‘flash for cash’, as anti-fraud experts are dubbing this latest twist. The premise is simple, flash your lights to let your chosen victim out at a junction, then crash into them – very hard to prove that someone flashed their lights at you. I guess it’s also worth pointing out at this point that flashing your lights for any other reason than to let motorists know you are there is a misuse. Although the definition of ‘letting someone know you are there’ is surely open to some interpretation.
While such terms are easy to remember, I’m not sure they portray the seriousness of the crime. Flash for cash conjures up an entirely different picture in my mind to the intended image, but maybe that’s just how my mind is wired.
Such crimes are often run by well organised gangs, where for example you may be driving along with two vehicles ahead of you, suddenly the furthest car slams it’s brakes on and then turns off at the last minute and disappears, forcing the car directly in front of you to brake hard as well. The result is that you rear-end the car in front, which has a readymade excuse for braking suddenly, while the car that turned off the road is long gone.
In 2011 Ken Clarke, then Justice Secretary, announced that ‘referral fees’ would be banned. Referral fees enabled the insurer to pass the details of accident victims to companies that would then encourage the victims to seek compensation through personal injury claims. An alarming 80% of claims as a result of a motor accident are for whiplash, which is, rather conveniently in fraudulent cases, undetectable in an X-ray or a scan. It has been suggested that up to 1 in every 7 personal injury claims may be fraudulent.
While such ‘no win, no fee’ cases can be perfectly legitimate, there is little doubt that the rise in such companies offering this service has made the fake personal injury claim a slightly easier path to furrow for the insurance scammer.
Let’s make this clear though, I am most certainly not criticising such companies themselves. Indeed, I have had occasion to use a ‘no win, no fee’ company myself for a non-motor vehicle related incident, and the ability to cut through the red tape and make a very necessary process much less daunting & financially restrictive can be a very welcome thing.
Earlier this year three men were convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison each after a crash for cash went horribly wrong and an unfortunate woman died as a result. Police described this as a land-mark case and this was shortly followed by another crash for cash case with an individual was sentenced to 12 months for dangerous driving following an attempt to cause an accident with a commercial vehicle. In what must have been a surprise to the fraudster, CCTV footage from inside the commercial vehicle’s cabin was used as evidence to convict.
Earlier this month, the owner of a breakdown recovery company was jailed for seven years. He was convicted for being the mastermind behind a multi-million pound, 60-strong gang. His company would invoice the insurance companies for the removal and storage of the damaged vehicles involved in these fake accidents. This was a huge operation, thought to have involved the illegal acquisition of more than £3 million.
As with many of crash for cash cases, the members of the gang would brake sharply in front of their victims. Now at the risk of being shot down in flames here, I can’t help thinking that such gangs are largely preying on our bad driving habits in many of these cases. I mean, it never ceases to amaze me how close some motorists will happily cruise along behind another vehicle.
It’s a completely nonsensical way of driving, it reduces reaction time and also means the driver behind is constantly slamming on the brakes at the last minute. It’s asking for trouble, scam or not.
Perhaps the welcome news that drivers who tailgate can now be subjected to on-the-spot fines of £100 as well as 3 points on their license might help to deter this bad and annoying habit. I would also like to see all such drivers who are found guilty of tailgating forced to take defensive driving courses as well. You wouldn’t stride along the street just a foot behind someone else, so why the hell do it in a car travelling at 30mph or more?
While having CCTV installed in every car is clearly unfeasible, car technology is developing in leaps and bounds, with luck an affordable solution is just round the corner that will make such claims too risky for the scammer.
Fleet News recently suggested that if anyone suspects that they may’ve been victim to a crash for cash accident, they should call the Confidential Insurance Fraud Bureau Cheatline on 0800 4220421. Keep ‘em peeled.
Images from autoevolution.com servicingstopblog.co.uk the fraudreport.com