A traffic accident is a stressful event. People involved in a crash often feel stunned and unable to think clearly — exactly the state of mind fraudsters prey upon. Maintain a level mindset and you’ll have a better chance at identifying someone trying to take advantage of the situation.
Douglas Shiring, director of GEICO’s Special Investigations Unit, is very familiar with insurance fraud. He explains how to outwit potential fraudsters right there on the scene.
GEICO More (GM): Traffic accidents do happen and sometimes it’s tempting to give the other driver the benefit of the doubt. Is it ever smart to wash your hands of it and just walk away from a car crash — even a minor one?
Douglas Shiring (DS): The first thing to do is to make sure everyone is okay. Then, exchange driver and insurance information with the other parties and take photos of any vehicle damage and injuries. Law enforcement officers can serve as impartial observers about the damage to vehicles, location of the loss, and the condition of the people involved. This prevents exaggeration of damage or injury.
GM: In movies and on TV, we see depictions of a fraudulent claimant hobbling into court on crutches or in a wheelchair, wearing bandages and a neck brace. Does that stuff really happen?
DS: I am sure, but generally people don’t go to those lengths to exaggerate injuries sustained in an accident. As a precaution, it’s important to safely photograph the damage to the vehicles and people involved. Photographic evidence can be used in the future if someone tries to exploit the unfortunate situation involving an accident.
GM: Why would someone go to such ridiculous lengths?
DS: In those instances, it is generally attributed to a perceived notion that they will be able to gain financially.
GM: In a courtroom, the judge considers many factors to determine who’s telling the truth. With insurance fraud, how can you tell when someone’s fibbing?
DS: In my experience, the facts surrounding an event like an accident are pretty straightforward. The courts (judges and juries) are pretty good at seeing through elaborate tales and inconceivable stories exaggerated so someone can profit financially.
At GEICO, we’re all about playing it safe and encourage all drivers to use their best judgment. Remaining calm and collected isn’t always easy, but it pays off in the end.
If you have any questions about your GEICO auto insurance, please call 1-800-841-0728 or visit geico.com. Go straight to the GEICO Claims Center if you’ve been in a fender bender or just want to know more about the claims process. Download the GEICO Mobile app to easily get a quote or report a claim.
By Steven Scott