We're being scammed in a 'cash-for-crash', should we be worried?

by Doug
(Sacramento, CA)

My wife was making a safe, legal left turn at a green-arrow. Oncoming traffic was limited to a single red sedan, traveling slowly, a seemingly inconsequential distance away. As my wife was finishing her turn, she was struck at high speed by the red sedan, who had floored it loudly, accelerating and steering into our vehicle as the turn proceeded.

The red sedan's right headlight had impacted at an angle, knocking my wife's right-rear wheel grossly out of alignment and destroying our wheel-well and rear panel.

The Red Sedan's driver ('RS') exited the car and began berating my wife loudly, claiming she (my wife) had run a red-arrow, since RS claims to have had a green light (any scammer knows this tactic can be very effective in prejudicing witnesses' testimony, regardless of what they may have actually seen).

Out of nowhere, another car stopped and the driver is a woman stopping to offer her services as a witness, claiming she was following RS. My wife had 2 passengers with her, RS had none.

The witness/cohort spent the next hour whispering with RS on the sidewalk at-scene, waiting for police to arrive. She later also gave her insurance people the contact info of another witness who was never seen by us, supposedly a 'bystander'.

Also, the RS driver kept complaining of neck and shoulder pain to anyone who would listen, and was conspicuously taken by ambulance for treatment. I myself, was not present on-scene until 10 minutes after the impact. My account is taken from the matching testimony of all three occupants of our car.

I've since hired a private investigator, as our insurance investigators are slow in responding. We've tracked down one eyewitness who had a 'ringside seat' but seems reluctant to give a statement. So... How worried should we be? How can we expose these people as scammers? Any tips you can give would be appreciated. Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "We're being scammed in a 'cash-for-crash', should we be worried?":

Doug (Sacramento, CA):

California is a traditional fault state. As a result, persons who sustain property damage and/or personal injuries as a result of another driver's negligence can seek restitution from the at-fault driver. This can include reimbursement for medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Let's begin by reviewing two important issues:

1. You weren't at the scene until ten (10) minutes after it occurred. How do you know the driver of the RS was not truly injured? You certainly couldn't feel her pain, or lack thereof, and nether could your wife.

2. Your seem to imply the witness was part of a scam. How do you know it was a scam? The witness cold have legitimately observed the accident as an impartial third party. "Whispering" is not evidence of scamming. Maybe the witness didn't want you or your wife to hear what's she was saying. That is certainly not evidence of foul play.

In your wife's case, you really don't have to be too concerned about being scammed. Your wife should have already turned the matter over to her insurance company. Insurance companies are not in the business of paying claims when their insured is not at-fault. To that effect, insurance companies employ very seasoned investigators and claims adjusters.

The investigator will easily be able to discern whether or not the witness was related to the RS driver, or somehow involved in a scam. The claims adjuster for the insurance company will then review the facts and determine liability.

When it comes down to it, your insurance company, with the help of its investigators and claims adjusters, will closely examine the accident. If the company believes your wife was totally at-fault, they will likely pay the victim's claim. If the company believes your wife was partially at-fault, they will reduce the amount of compensation they pay to the victim.

Finally, if the company finds your wife was not at-fault, they will likely not pay the "victim" any compensation. Moreover, such a finding will result in no adverse action against your wife's driving record.

If the police were dispatched to the accident they will have created a police report. Here's some information on using police reports to help your claim. In the report will be the names and addresses of drivers, the witness, and other pertinent information. The police officer investigating will have determined in his or her opinion which driver, if either, was at-fault.

If either driver violated a traffic law, that driver will likely have been issued a citation. A traffic citation, while not legally conclusive of fault, can be powerful evidence in an insurance investigation.

In the event the claim can't be settled and a lawsuit against your wife is filed by the RS driver, your wife's insurance company will provide a defense attorney at no cost.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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