Illinois Has Dubious Distinction of Having the Fifth Highest Rate in the Nation
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), Illinois has one of the highest rates of so-called "staged accidents" in the country. These "accidents" are most often not being perpetrated by mere petty thieves - NICB investigations across the country have revealed operations of organized criminals whose operations span multiple states. Staged car accidents do not simply involve the driver him or herself and vehicle passengers. Complicit body shop owners, towing companies, lawyers, doctors and chiropractors all take a cut of the nearly $5 billion each year that these fraudulent cases cost the insurance industry.
What Does a Staged Accident Look Like?
Though there are many ways a staged accident could occur, several scenarios are seen most often, all involving several "staging" cars each carrying several passengers that will all fraudulently claim injuries following a collision. All of them make it appear like the victim was at fault in causing the accident. Some common ones are:
- "Swoop and Squat" - involving three vehicles that are part of the ring and an innocent victim; the first two cars will past the victim's car and then quickly pull over or "swoop" in front of it. The second car will then slow dramatically or brake suddenly, forcing the victim to try and take evasive maneuvers, but the third vehicle (still driving parallel to the victim car) then slows or stops to prevent the victim from being able to change lanes and avoid the collision.
- "Left Turn Drive Down" - typically seen at entrances to shopping malls and parking garages and usually targeting female drivers traveling alone or the elderly. The staging car will stop before an entrance and then wave the victim ahead. Once the victim starts to turn into the entrance, the staging car will move forward just enough to block the victim's car; at that time, the second staging car comes from behind and "drives down" the victim to cause a collision.
- "Right Turn Drive Down" - seen at stop lights and stop signs, the staging car will wait until the victim car proceeds into an intersection to make a right turn, at which time the staging car will rapidly accelerate away from the curb, striking the victim car in the left rear area.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Staged Car Accident
Even though the people perpetrating staged accidents are clever and adept at hiding their frauds, you can still take action to avoid becoming a victim. The NICB recommends that all drivers:
- Avoid tailgating.
- Always report an accident to the police, even if there is little damage.
- Photograph the vehicles, the scene, the other driver, passengers and passers-by.
- Avoid bystanders who try to influence you to call a particular towing company, doctor, lawyer, chiropractor or other third party.
- Do not use a tow truck driver who appears on the scene without you or a law enforcement officer calling him.
- If you are not injured, do not file a personal injury claim, regardless of who (doctor, lawyer, friend, the other driver) advises you to do so.