The Covid crisis has had a major and ongoing impact on the commercial trucking industry. Truck drivers of all classes have proven their vital role in keeping Americans fed and supplied with essentials.
One unwelcome and tawdry impact on those truckers and their firms is the notable uptick in staged accidents between truckers and four-wheelers and the resulting rise in fraudulent claims. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) highlights staged crashes of all kinds are the Number One source of insurance fraud nationally. NCIB spokespeople further note that these purposeful accidents are “big business” that warrant the attention of company drivers. Knowing how to recognize and react to a suspected staged crash is now a priority for all in the trucking industry.
A Well-Planned and Expensive Fraud
The insurance industry categorizes those participating in these staged crashes as either desperate amateurs or cunning professional criminals. A recent example of just such a professional group is still being developed in New Orleans. Seven additional people, including attorneys and medical professionals, were recently indicted by federal prosecutors in the Crescent City. These were only part of a group of dozens of individuals who have plead guilty or are facing trial for a scheme first uncovered in late 2019.
That first indictment against five people on six federal counts of fraud has grown to cover more than forty crashes and a broad list of participants at all levels. In the first indictment, the feds detailed how a driver would intentionally collide with a tractor-trailer. The driver would then switch with another individual because they were skilled at creating the crashes without serious injury. The original driver also served as a witness, using a practiced script.
The passengers in the crashed car would then use attorneys and doctors who were participants in the scheme and participate in unnecessary treatments of falsified injuries. The FBI investigation of the ringleader of the group found that he had settled five separate crash lawsuits in just the past eight years.
New Orleans is one city that is a hotspot for these types of fraudulent claims because it is known for having liberal juries that often favor plaintiffs. The likelihood of massive settlements also incentivizes insurance and trucking firms to settle even dubious claims.
The most recent charges in the New Orleans scheme are not expected to be the last. Those individuals face prison sentences of up to 20 years if found guilty.
Unfortunately, and the NICB is publicizing the reality, this is not a rare or even uncommon situation. Knowledgeable scammers, facilitated by corrupt doctors and attorneys, know to target the larger commercial carriers because a sizeable settlement is likely once a lawsuit is filed.
A Full Range of Scams
The lucrative nature of staged crashes has produced a varied repertoire of types of accidents, including:
Swoop and Stop – One vehicle pulls in front of a moving semi and brakes, while an accomplice pulls alongside to prevent the possibility of swerving to avoid the collision.
The Wave – A driver will signal to a trucker to attempt an indicated lane change and then speed up to cause a collision.
T-Bone – a driver will wait for an attractive target semi to lawfully enter an intersection with limited traffic. They will then ram the truck, and accomplices will testify that the truck ran a stop sign or red light.
These are, according to experts, the “tip of the iceberg” for the tactics used by fraudsters.
Trucking firms should train their drivers in the basics of defensive driving, as well as how to watch for the signs of a scam when an accident occurs. Drivers should use their own phones to photograph the scene, the vehicles, and to collect as much on-scene information as possible.
Drivers should always notify the police and have a full report filed to avoid the common practice of later fraudulent claims. This includes claims for more serious damage and adding “injured” individuals who were not even on the scene.