Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Automobile Scams by scum                          

As sure as God made little apples, there are always scammers (who in my opinion are scum) who will rip off motorists and their insurance companies. Two of these forms of scum tried to rip me off but I thwarted their efforts. More on them later in this article.

Experts say that more than 20 percent of bodily injury claims and 10 percent of auto damage claims that are the result of car accidents are bogus claims. As much as 15% of your insurance premiums go towards covering the costs of these fraudulent insurance claims. If for example your auto insurance annual premium is $1,500, then of that amount, you will be paying $225 to cover the fraudulent claims. If these fraudulent scum weren’t around, your premium would only be $1,275 a year or $106 a month instead of $125 a month.

I spent five years investigating bogus insurance claims for an insurance company as an accident re-constructionist and solved almost all of the cases I investigated. Many of these claimants claimed that they were not the cause of the accidents and others claimed that they were suffering from serious injuries and were also claiming that they were handicapped as a result of their accidents when in fact, their injuries were not as serious as they claimed. Some claimed they were sober when they drove into other vehicles when in fact they were drunk. In one of those cases, I even got written statements from the deceased driver’s friends who said that he was drunk as a skunk when he was driving home from a tavern. 

It is an unfortunate fact of life that there is scum everywhere who think that car insurance companies are their second bank. It is these scum who cause insurance companies to raise the rates of honest policy holders in order to cover the costs brought about by their bogus claims. Car insurance scams victimize law-abiding drivers by creating blemished driving records, legal headaches and higher premiums. Insurance companies also end up paying out millions of dollars each year to settle claims that aren't authentic.

Unfortunately, some insurance companies are careless when it comes to trying to determine if the claims are bogus.

For example, one night many years ago, I drove on a country road that continued into another road that started at the top of a hill and then gradually turned away from the road I had come from and went past that road and onward towards my right. It was an inverted  Y intersection I had entered. I chose to remain stationary while I was in the intersection because a car coming down a hill in front of me had its high beams on and I was blinded. There was another car to my right on one arm of the Y intersection  but unseen by me, however its headlights lit of the trees to my right. That car was also heading towards the same intersection I had stopped in. The car coming down the hill continued heading towards me and then smashed into my stationary car. His brand new car was a right-off and my car suffered $4000 damage. By the way, he hadn’t yet bought insurance for his brand new car.

At traffic court, that driver said that he didn’t have to slow down because I shouldn’t have been stopped in the middle of the intersection. My insurance company nevertheless paid his damages he claimed for his new car and for his injuries without even considering my side of the story. I then took the matter to civil court and the court awarded me damages against that driver. The reason was obvious because the law is quite clear. Whoever has the last opportunity to prevent an accident and doesn’t act appropriately, that person is responsible for the accident. Since I was blinded by his headlights which were on high beams and mine were not and neither was the headlights of the driver behind me to my right who was approaching the intersection I was stopped in, the insurance company foolishly wasted their money paying that man who deliberately drove his car into my car.  They did however pay for the damage to my car and to their credit, they didn’t increase my premiums. What my insurance company didn’t know then was that this particular driver had two previous similar accidents and the other driver’s insurance companies paid him off also.  And neither knew that he was about to retire and obviously needed money after his retirement.

I did get an opportunity to wreak my revenge on this crook. He threatened to kill me when he was in the witness box in court during my cross examination and everyone heard him so I called the police and they got a warrant and seized his rifles from his home and told him that he wouldn’t be permitted to have any more guns in his possession—ever.

Later the Province of Ontario set up a public commission to study the automobile insurance industry in Ontario. I sent a lengthy report to the Commissioner about the negligence of insurance companies paying off bogus claims. The Commissioner asked me to address the public Commission and he instructed all the CEOs of the insurance companies in Ontario to attend that particular session so that they would hear what I had to say. They were interested in what I had to say since they knew that I had been a former accident re-constructionist and as such, I had investigated a great many accidents for an insurance company for five years.                   

I read an interesting article in the Internet prepared by HowStuffWorks. I will paraphrase some of their suggestions as best as I can.        

The most common (and dangerous) insurance claim is brought about  by staged rear-ending.  The scammer will come to a sudden unnecessary stop in busy traffic or at an intersection or an on-ramp in front of the victim`s car or alternatively, swoop in front of the victim`s car and suddenly stop causing the driver to crash into them from behind. In almost every jurisdiction, rear-endings are considered the fault of the rear driver—in this case, the victim of the scam.  The scammer will probably also claim to have neck or back pain, despite the very low speed of the vehicle's behind them. This allows for the scammer to claim for both damages to his car and for his so-called injuries.

Suppose you've been in a car accident, and you're standing by the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck and the police to arrive. The scam in this scenario comes soon after. A scammer who is a tow truck driver may approach you and convince you to use the services of a particular body shop. You have likely never heard of that body shop. The owner of the shop and the tow truck driver are in cahoots together and the tow truck driver gets a piece of the action for bringing your car to that particular shop which may charge you more for the repairs than is really necessary.  

Suppose you get in a fender-bender and the other driver immediately complains of back pain, whiplash or other injuries. If the driver seeks hospitalization, he'll file an insurance claim with his insurance company to cover the expenses of medical costs, even if his injury is bogus. Then his insurance company will ask your insurance company for money to cover their expenses.

Whiplash and phantom pain are especially hard to display on an X-ray, so the scammer might cooperate with and pay off shady doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists to corroborate their injury reports so as to get a payout from insurance companies. I don`t think that happens too much in Canada especially after a large investigation took place a couple of years ago into this scam but there was a time when this was a common problem facing insurance companies.

Sometimes when there is a bad car accident, there will be people who weren't even in the car filing a personal injury claim with the owner’s insurance company. This is is a scam known as the phantom victim. Whether it’s an after-effect of a staged accident or a cash ploy that comes later, the scammer will attempt to file claims for additional passengers in the car and claim for pain or injury, even if no one else was in the car. If you are in a car accident and have a camera, take pictures of everyone who was in the car. If you don’t have a camera, write down the descriptions of who was in that car.

In the past, fraudsters would change their identities and move from one insurer to another without being detected.  Also organized crime groups are submitting bogus claims to insurance companies. The Province of Ontario has been named as the staged collision capital of Canada. In the year 2010, as much as between $700 million and $1.6 billion dollars were paid out to such fraudsters.  

I will now tell you of two kinds of scum who tried to scam me for accidents they claimed I caused. These so-called accidents involved parking my car. One of them occurred on July 22, 2014 when I was parking my car behind Old City Hall in Toronto. The other one occurred on December 6, 2014 when I was parking my car at Westwood Mall in Mississauga.

The July 22, 2014 incident

I was taking a friend to court at Old City Hall on December 6th and had parked my car behind the building. I had difficulty trying to squeeze in the parking spot on the street but I had assistance from my friend and a man who worked at Old City Hall. They guided me into the spot. Half an hour later, my friend and I returned to the street and the man who worked at Old City Hall was waiting for us.

He told us that the driver of the small van ahead of my car began taking photos of all four sides of his van and then began taking photos of all four sides of my car including the inside of my car. After waiting with his family for half an hour, the owner of the van drove away.

A couple of weeks later, I received a letter from a detective in the Traffic Department of the Toronto Police Service asking me to contact him. I did and he asked me what happened when I was parking my car behind Old City Hall on July 22nd.  I told him nothing happened. He agreed to come to my home and look at my car.

The next day, he came to my home and looked at my car. I showed him a minor scratch on my right rear bumper. He showed me a picture of the left rear side of the van. There was enormous damage that had to be at least two feet in height and three feet in length. He said that he was satisfied that it wasn`t my car that did that damage. He also spoke to my friend who lived across the street from me and I gave him the phone number of the employee working at Old City Hall. That same day the detective sent me an email in which he wrote;

After reviewing the damage profile on the complainant’s vehicle as well as yours, I have come to the conclusion that your vehicle did not cause the damage that the complainant had indicated to the police.  

What was odd about that damage on the van was that the damage wasn`t on the van when I parked behind it. This brings to mind an incident in my life that took place in the 1990s. A sergeant in the Toronto Police Service asked me to assist his 90-year-old mother on an insurance matter. She was parked in a parking spot in a large mall and another driver was backing out of his parking spot that was directly across the feeder lane from her. He bumped into her car’s front bumper. One of the more common problems in parking lots is cars backing out of their sparking spots and hitting other cars passing in the feeder lanes. My friend’s mother and the other driver both got out of their cars and examined their bumpers. There was no damage to either. He suggested that they don’t contact their insurance companies and she agreed. Nine months later, she discovered to her horror that her insurance company had increased her premium renewal costs by $2,000. She asked why and was told that several days after the day she was bumped by that other driver; he made a claim stating that the damage to his car was $1,800 and that she was at fault. Her insurance company told her that because she didn’t report the accident to them, they increased her premium. The damage to his car obviously occurred after the time he bumped into her car.

She appealed to the government’s Superintendent of Insurance and got nowhere with him. She then contacted the province’s Ombudsman and he said that he couldn’t intercede on insurance matters. That’s when my police sergeant friend contacted me for help. I wrote the Minister of Finance which amongst other responsibilities has authority over insurance companies.  I pointed out to him that when he reaches the age of ninety, he too will be frustrated when no one cares what he has to say in his defence. The Finance Minister wrote me back and told me that he ordered the insurance company to refund the woman’s $2,000.  In my letter, I also recommended that a special Insurance Commission be formed so that anyone who feels that they have been aggrieved by any insurance company can bring their complaint directly to the Insurance Commission. He agreed with me. Within a year, his ministry created the Financial Services Commission in which among other complaints, policy holders who have a beef with their insurance company can appeal to the Commission for help. Now I will tell you of the second scum who tried to scam me.             

The December 6, 2014 incident

On that day, I was parking my car in the small Westwood Mall in Mississauga. As I drove west down the feeder lane, I saw an empty parking spot to my right and slowly entered the empty parking spot and at the same time, keeping my eyes on the rear left corner of the car to my right so that I didn’t brush the right rear panel of my car against the left rear bumper of that car. When I then looked forward, there was a man standing at the rear of the car that was parked on my left. At no time was my car close enough to the left side of that man’s car for me to hit it with my left bumper or the left side front panel of my car.

In any case, when I got out of my car, he approached me and told me that I had just hit the front left panel of his car. His car was facing south and my car was facing north. I knew that it was impossible for me to hit his car because I would have felt something and certainly heard something which I didn’t. He walked to the police office at the mall and brought back a police officer with him. The officer looked at my left front bumper and noticed some abrasions and concluded that it was the left side of my front bumper that hit the other man’s car. Those abrasions were caused a year earlier when I hit something in my garage. Meanwhile, both of us drivers exchanged insurance information etc.

The next day, I phoned the other man and said that because it had been getting dark on the day of the so-called collision, I suggested that we meet in Bolton, Ontario (where he lived) so that we could get a better look at both of our cars in the sunlight. He agreed.                                                                                    
He looked at my car and saw a scratch on my left front panel which he claimed was related to the scratch on his left front panel. I brought a metal tape measure with me and the distance from the pavement to the scratch on the left front panel of his car was 19.5 inches. He measured the distance on my car and he said that from the pavement to the scratch on the left front panel on my car was 18.5 inches. When I sat in my car when I was driving my car in the parking spot, the scratch in my car would have been even lower. Further, the scratch on his car is quite deep whereas the scratch on my car is so faint, even with the sun shining on it, it was hard to see. Those two scratches were in any case, not related in any manner whatsoever with respect to his claim that my car scratched his car while I was parking my car because my car didn’t scrape against his car. Further, my left front panel couldn’t have scratched his left front panel unless I had entered my parking spot directly from the parking spot opposite mine that was directly across the feeder lane which I didn’t.

In any case, as soon as this man saw the measurements, he said, and I quote. “Let me know by five o’clock is you want to pay me direct for the damage or have your insurance pay for it.”

In Ontario, the law is that if your own car is damaged, then your own insurance company will  pay for it however if the other person’s insurance company is convinced in their mind that their own policy holder is at fault, then your insurance company will not have to send any money to the claimant’s insurance company.

Later in the day, (before five) this scum phoned me and told me that his body shop told him that it would cost $950.00 to repair his car. He then asked me if I wanted to pay him direct or let my insurance company pay for it. He told me to let him know by five. I didn’t call him back and at six, he called me and asked me what the name of my insurance company was.

Now think about that. When we exchanged insurance information, he photographed my insurance document with his cell phone. Why would this scum later ask me for the name of my insurance company when he already knew the name? His purpose was to tell me that he was going to make a claim against my insurance company and thereby scare me into paying him the $950.00 direct rather than have my premium increased if my insurance company paid his insurance company. His ploy didn’t scare me one bit.

$950.00 to repair a scratch that was an eighth of an inch wide and less than twelve inches in length? Give me a break. His body shop could get rid of the scratch easily enough and use the same paint to paint over the scratch that it had used when he recently had his car repainted. The cost would be no more than $500.00. This scum was trying to scam me for money and obviously, I didn’t fall for it. 

I am convinced that the scratch on his car was caused by someone who keyed it with a key. I arrived at that conclusion because there was part of the paint untouched between the areas where the scratches were and at the end of the scratch, it appeared that someone’s knuckle had scraped some of the dust away. When I mentioned that to this twit, he replied, “It was your car that moved the dust away.” Yea and the moon is made of cheese, dummy.”  Further, I think he was standing behind his car while waiting for another motorist to drive into the parking spot next to his so that he could claim that the car next to his had damaged his car.

He later told his insurance broker that my car had caused severe indentations on the left side of his car. That’s odd. I never saw that kind of damage on his car when we met in Bolton and he never mentioned it to me. I have to conclude that that damaged occurred later.                                                 
My insurance company asked me for a report on what had happened. In my written report (sent to them in a CD disk) I gave them pictures of my car and also pictures taken in four stages as to how I parked my car next to his car. The pictures of those four stages clearly showed that it would be impossible for my car to be anywhere near the left front panel of his car when I drove into my parking spot. On March 10th, I received an email from the head of the claims department of my insurer in which he wrote;  

“As per our conversation on March 10, 2015, I have reviewed the file and the pictures you sent me. We will be rating the claim for you as not at fault.”

This means that my insurer will not be paying any money to this scum’s insurer for the repair of his car. Further, if he has a $500 deductible, he will have to pay that out of his own pocket towards the cost of the repairs.

There is a lesson to be learned from all of this. It is that you should be very wary of the possibility of scum like the ones I have told you about in this article who will blame you for damages to their vehicles when in fact you didn’t damage their vehicles at all or cause the accidents. Investigate these claims thoroughly.

If you are convinced that you didn’t cause the accident, then tell the scammer to stick his claim up in that part of his body where the sun doesn’t shine. Then contact your broker and tell him to expect a call from the scammer and tell the broker your side of the story.

Be wary of these scammers. They are like mosquitos. They are everywhere.   Ignore them if you can just as I did. It paid off for me and it should also pay off for you if you don`t fall into the trap set for you by these scammers.

Just as ponds have scum on them, so do highways, streets and parking lots have scum on them.  We will never be able to permanently remove scum from our communities but if you drive carefully, the chances are that you won’t be confronted by these scum. Unfortunately even when you do drive carefully, there may be scum waiting for you. If they say you caused the accident and you didn’t, ignore their claims and do your investigation thoroughly and most importantly, notify your insurance broker as soon as possible as to what to expect from the scum who are trying to get money out of you especially when they wants you to pay them directly.    

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