Q&A: Tom Gardiner of Aviva
How serious is the crash for cash problem?
Fraudulent “slam-ons” – road traffic accidents deliberately caused in order to claim for whiplash compensation – increased by 51% in 2013, according to Aviva’s claims fraud data. These induced accidents have a value of over £10m and are at the highest levels we have ever detected. In total, we have over 6,000 motor injury claims linked to organised fraud activity.
So it is a serious problem, and the increase in induced accidents which put innocent motorists in harm’s way is of particular concern.
What should fleets be on the look out for?
To minimise the risk of being targeted by the cash for crash fraudsters, drivers should take a number of actions.
Obviously, drivers should stay alert and pay attention to their driving and the traffic around them, and keep a safe distance between their vehicle and the one in front.
It is also advised to check the brake lights as a common trait in many vehicles involved in “crash for cash” is failure of the vehicle’s brake lights. If you notice the car in front brakes and their lights don’t work, remain cautious, allow extra space between you and the vehicle, and perhaps distance your car from theirs.
Also look out for warning signs. Is the car in front moving particularly slowly or is it slowing down and speeding up for no apparent reason?
Drivers are also advised to assess behaviour. If the driver in front is focusing on the back of the vehicle in their mirror or passengers in the vehicle in front are turning around and looking at you for no apparent reason they may be assessing an opportunity to induce an accident.
Finally, look at collision damage. Does the car in front look like it has been in other accidents – especially showing damage to its rear?
What should fleets do in the event of a suspicious crash?
Firstly, drivers should stay calm and not argue with the driver of the other vehicle and/or their passengers.
Drivers should call the police immediately while they are still at the scene of the accident, inform them they suspect the accident is a cash for crash scam and ask them to attend the accident scene. And never admit liability.
Capture as much information as possible at the scene, including the make, model and registration number of the other vehicle, the time, date, location and weather conditions at the time of the accident, the full name, address and date of birth of the driver and each passenger in their vehicle, and whether they were male or female and the total number of passengers in the other vehicle, to include where they were sat in the vehicle immediately after the accident. It is advised to take pictures or video if you can.
Drivers should contact their fleet manager to let them know about the accident, their suspicions and the information they have been able to capture to assist in defending the claim.
What measures would Aviva like to see introduced?
We believe that convictions for motor injury fraud resulting from induced accidents should result in more custodial sentences that recognise the unique physical harm that this form of insurance fraud poses to motorists, as well as the wider social costs. Stronger sentences will deter would-be fraudsters and help to keep roads safer and premiums lower for customers.
We also welcome recent measures from Justice Secretary Chris Grayling which will help to crack down on insurance fraudsters. Specifically, requiring courts to strike out claims where the claimant has been fundamentally dishonest about their injury is something Aviva has been calling for.