How Should I Deal With A False Auto Accident Claim Against Me?
Sometimes people act before they are in full possession of the facts. In other cases, however, you may be the victim of attempted insurance fraud. We have all heard of situations where people exaggerate injuries from a car accident to try and obtain a more favorable insurance settlement. Perhaps you even know about a case of full-scale fraud–one where the accident may have been deliberately staged to create a personal injury claim. In any event, when you are faced with what you believe to be a false auto accident claim, it is important to remain calm and understand your legal right and responsibilities.
Hard Fraud vs. Soft Fraud
Although we use the term “fraud” to broadly describe false accident claims, it is more accurate to talk about hard fraud and soft fraud when it comes to these cases. Soft fraud is the more common type of false car accident claim that you are likely to face. This is basically the person who walks away from the accident scene looking fine, but then later claims they suffered a “soft tissue” injury that is difficult to precisely quantify.
In soft fraud cases, the accuser may still have a valid claim against you for some damages. But they are clearly “playing up” their relatively minor injuries in the hopes of getting a stronger settlement offer from your insurance company. Sometimes soft fraud can also involve an accuser trying to pin an injury from a prior accident on you.
Hard fraud, in contrast, involves a claim that is more-or-less completely fraudulent or staged. So even if the injuries are real, it is due to the fact the accuser deliberately tried to cause an accident and then blame you. One example of this type of hard fraud is the so-called “panic stop” accident. Basically, the scammers put a bunch of people in a car. The car pulls in front of you. The driver watches until you are momentarily distracted and then slams on their brakes, which then forces you to suddenly brake and strike them from behind.
This particular scam is quite effective because when an insurance company or a court looks at a rear-end accident, they almost always hold the rear driver–in this scenario, you–responsible. The trailing driver is always expected to keep a proper distance from the vehicle in front of them. And unless the vehicle in front deliberately stops suddenly, it usually is the trailing driver’s fault.
The Steps You Can Take to Protect Against False Accident Claims
Obviously, not every car accident is a scam. Most accidents are just that–accidents. But you should still be on alert for potential scams or exaggerated injury claims. Protecting yourself and your legal interests starts immediately following the accident itself.
Of course, if you or anyone at the scene requires immediate medical attention, that always takes priority. Even if nobody appears injured, however, you should still call 911 and ask the police to respond to the scene. Never allow the other driver to talk you out of calling law enforcement. Indeed, if someone is loudly protesting your decision to call 911, that may be your first sign that something is fishy.
Now, the police may not respond to every accident call, especially if they are overwhelmed with other matters. At the very least, you will have a record of the 911 call. When an officer does respond, they will prepare an official accident report. This will provide the first written record of the accident and the parties at the scene.
The officer may be in a position to ascertain fault for the accident. You should not take this as Gospel. While an accident report may be “official,” it is not legally binding. Unless the officer happened to witness the accident personally, the report simply offers a preliminary opinion based on the limited available information. So even if the officer believes you might have been at fault, that is far from the last word on the matter.
On the contrary, it is usually left to the insurance companies to make a more concrete fault determination. Your own insurance company will conduct its own investigation, as will any insurer representing the other drivers involved. Keep in mind, your insurer has the most to lose if an accident claim is fraudulent, so their adjusters will be quite thorough in their investigation.
Legally, you need to cooperate with your insurer’s investigation into the accident. Otherwise, the insurer may disclaim coverage, leaving you potentially liable for any damages claimed by the other driver. Cooperation means promptly notifying your insurer of the accident and providing as much information as you think will prove useful to the investigation. It is a good idea to make a note of anything the other driver tells you at the accident scene–an admission of fault is especially helpful–as well as take down the names and contact information of any witnesses. And since you are almost certainly carrying a smartphone these days, it never hurts to take pictures (or even video) of the damaged vehicles and accident location.
Will My Insurance Company Defend Me Against a False Accident Claim?
Following an investigation, the insurance companies involved will usually try to negotiate a settlement of any personal injury claims. If the amount sought by the other driver is equal to or less than your total coverage amount, your insurer may simply decide it is in its best interests to assign fault to you and pay up. If that happens, there is really nothing you can do. Even if you believe the claim was false or exaggerated, in this context it is your insurer’s call to make.
On the other hand, if your insurance company agrees with you that the claim is bogus, it is contractually obligated to defend you against a personal injury lawsuit. Typically, this means the insurer will hire and pay a lawyer to defend you in court. This is good in the sense that you will not have to find the money to pay for a lawyer, although it is bad in that you will likely not be allowed to choose your own attorney.
If for some reason you do not have auto insurance, of course, then you are responsible for all of the costs of defending yourself. Unlike criminal trials, you are not entitled to a free lawyer when defending yourself against a potential civil claim. That said, if you have neither insurance nor significant financial resources of your own, most potential personal injury plaintiffs will not even bother filing a lawsuit, as it is not in their financial interests to do so.
Speak with a Nevada Car Accident Lawyer Today
Insurance and accident-related fraud is a serious problem. But it also should not overshadow the fact that the overwhelming majority of personal injury claims are legitimate. So if you are looking for qualified legal advice following a car accident and need to speak with an experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney, contact Naqvi Injury Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.