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Attorney Van O'Steen

Alertness to Insurance Fraud is Sound Policy

Van O'Steen

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The Maricopa County grand jury indicted 25 people on various felony counts arising from an alleged scheme to stage automobile accidents and fraudulently claim insurance money.

Although it is impossible to measure accurately the cost to consumers of fraudulent insurance claims, it is clear that these costs are reflected in higher insurance rates for everyone.

Vigorous investigation and prosecution are essential. Criminals must be punished, including the ones who commit their crimes with cars rather than guns.  All citizens should support stiffer penalties for insurance fraud.

I spoke with a Deputy County Attorney who is leading the prosecution team on the Maricopa County cases.  He described for me the common denominator found in virtually all staged auto accidents.  They involve low-speed impacts with no apparent injuries to those involved.  After all, crooks who stage accidents do not really want to get injured.

Unfortunately, this test is far from perfect as a predictor of staged accidents and fraudulent personal injury claims.

Legitimate muscle, ligament and tendon inures commonly occur in relatively low-speed impacts.  These "soft tissue" injuries can be very painful and even disabling, at least for a short time.  

Staged collisions account for a very small portion of low-impact accident injury claims.  Nearly 100 percent of staged accidents, however, are of this type.

The County Attorney told me of an exception to this staged accident profile that appears to be associated with the American South.  Some residents of that region consider involvement in high-speed staged accidents to be a mark of manhood.

No matter how they do it, these criminals steal from all of us. They deserve our contempt and their rightful place in our jails.

If you have any reasonable basis to believe that another person is involved in insurance fraud, report this to your local police.  The police department may include any of several governmental agencies and private organizations in investigating a suspicious case.

All of us pay the price for insurance fraud.  Help prevent it when you can.