Personal injury fraud happens when one person provides false information for a personal injury claim. It may also involve fake lawsuits for injuries that never occurred or accidents that never happened.
Unfortunately, personal injury fraud does happen and it is one of those areas of law that gives personal injury a bad rap. Because of these fraudulent lawsuits, many assume that those who file a lawsuit is lying and seeking money, even when they have an obviously legitimate claim.
Insurance companies will spend millions of dollars each year investigating fake injuries. While there are still some that slip through the cracks, most companies are able to catch and deny those fraudulent claims. In some cases, a fraudulent case may wind up in criminal courts.
Unfortunately, fraudulent personal injury claims hurt other people involved. And, honest, hard-working individuals may have to pay for the fraudulent acts of others.
Categories of Personal Injury Fraud
There are two categories of personal injury fraud: hard and soft.
- Hard Fraud – This is a serious type of fraud. It occurs when someone purposely stages an accident or conspires to create an accident that results in real injuries. Insurance companies and police investigate and take these types of fraudulent claims very seriously. This is one that could be punishable with civil and criminal penalties.
- Soft Fraud – This can occur during legitimate claims, and usually happens when a person exaggerates their injuries to increase the amount of damages they will receive. Sometimes people can fake an injury by using a previous injury as part of their claim.
There are numerous ways people engage in hard and soft fraud. Some of those can include, but are not limited to:
- Filing false insurance claims to their insurance company or the other party’s.
- Filing a frivolous lawsuit—a claim that they know would fail in court.
- Applying for health care benefits that are fraudulent.
- Hiring a doctor who provides false testimony and medical records regarding a non-existent injury.
- Attempting to use workers’ compensation or disability insurance benefits for a fake injury.
- Filing for an outrageous amount of damages.
- Exaggerating the severity of an injury or how the accident occurred.
- Using a previous injury as a “new” injury to claim more damages.
What are the Legal Consequences of Committing Personal Injury Fraud?
A personal injury fraud claim can lead to legal consequences both civilly and criminally. Individuals who engaged in personal injury fraud may pay court fines, go to jail, and even face civil lawsuits for the damages they attempted to collect, as well as the pain and suffering they inflicted on others.
If you file a fraudulent personal injury claim, some of the consequences you could face include:
Liability to Your Insurance Company or the Other Party’s Insurance Company
Filing fraudulent claims carries serious consequences with insurance carriers, including:
- A denial of claims. You will have the claim denied by your insurance company and not be compensated for any losses, even if there were some legitimate losses.
- Cancellation of insurance coverage. Your insurer holds the right to drop you as a customer and will file it in your report. This may also make it difficult to obtain insurance coverage from other companies in the future since companies will check to see if you have a history of fraudulent claims.
- Settlement refunds. If you were awarded a monetary settlement and it turns out to be false, you will be required to refund the full amount. If you cannot, the insurance agency may file a lawsuit against your estate for the remainder, plus additional damages.
Criminal Consequences of Filing False Personal Injury Claims
Filing a fraudulent personal injury claim is illegal no matter where in the country you are located. It is punishable as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the case. Some things you could face if charged with a crime include:
- Misdemeanor charges, which can include some jail time and a heavy fine.
- Felony charges, which can result in significant jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record.
How to Prevent Being a Victim of Personal Injury Fraud
It is important to stop these criminals before they can take their claims too far. Some things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of personal injury fraud include:
- Always calling the police after an accident: No matter what the other party says, contact the police to get any accident on record. If there are no injuries and the cars are not blocking traffic, police may require you to just exchange information. This is where your own notes come into play. Write down everything you can to help disprove any false injury claims by the other party.
- Documenting statements: When the claimant blurts something out at the accident scene, especially related to their condition or the accident itself, write it down. For example, if the person says they were on the phone or they stated the accident was their fault, be sure to document it so he or she cannot try to change the story later.
- Get witness statements: Because you may not have a police report, you will need to rely on witnesses in the vehicles and outside of them to help prove your case. Speak to each witness you can find and write down their information. This can be passed on to an attorney later to question them and see if their account of the events lines up with your story or the other party’s.
- Take photographs: If you are in the physical condition to do so, take photographs of the scene, including the driver, your vehicles, damages, etc. Photographs of the driver and passengers having a good time after the accident can be proof they were not really injured.
- Contact your insurance company right after the accident: Tell them about the potential driver injuries or how you believe they may be fraudulent so that your insurance claims adjuster can be on the lookout and scrutinize their claims.
Contact a Reputable Personal Injury Attorney Florida for Your Car Accident Case
Fraudulent claims happen, but with the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney, you can make sure you are never accused of fraud and that you don’t become a victim of a fraudulent claim.
Click here to contact the attorneys at Scott J. Sternberg & Associates today for a free consultation regarding your accident case. Schedule your appointment at 561-687-5660. There is no obligation for meeting with us and we will tell you right away if you have a valid claim.
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