Fraudulent automobile accidents — also known as staged accidents — commonly occur on U.S. roadways, and criminals often target commercial vehicles because they tend to be well insured, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
It’s a significant safety issue as drivers can be victimized and even injured during staged accidents. Fleet owners and managers should be aware of some of the common schemes and educate their drivers to be alert to these tactics.
One prevalent staged accident is known as the “swoop-and-squat,” according to NICB. It can take place on a regular city street or on a busy freeway.
Here’s how the swoop-and-squat plays out on a neighborhood street. Typically, it involves three vehicles — two driven by criminals and the third by a victim. The driver of the “squat” vehicle pulls in front of the victim’s car. The driver of the “swoop” vehicle pulls in front of the squat vehicle, causing the driver of the squat vehicle to hit his brakes. The victim — potentially your fleet driver — cannot react in time and rear-ends the squat vehicle. The swoop vehicle races away, leaving the victim responsible for any vehicle damage and personal injury to passengers in the squat vehicle.
Criminals also customize the “swoop-and-squat” scheme for use on an expressway. Here, four vehicles are usually involved, with three belonging to criminals. In this variation, the third criminal boxes in the victim so he cannot change lanes when the swoop vehicle cuts off the squat vehicle. Following the crash, the swoop and box-in cars speed off, again forcing the victim’s insurer to pay the claim.
Other common types of staged accidents include the Left Turn Drive Down, Right Turn Drive Down, and Curb Drive Down.
Here’s how the Curb Drive Down unfolds: A driver prepares to pull away from a curb and merge into traffic. It’s clear, so the driver moves ahead. Suddenly, a car crosses from the left lane and deliberately crashes into the driver’s vehicle. The driver and passengers of the car that deliberately crashed claims the innocent motorist pulled into traffic when it wasn’t clear. The vehicle occupants then all claim injuries. As a result, an insurance claim is filed against the innocent driver’s insurance company. Unless someone suspects fraud and investigates further, the criminals cash in.
Fraudulent automobile accidents occur more frequently in urban areas where there are many vehicles, and also in wealthier communities because drivers there are perceived to have better insurance companies, notes NICB.