Aviva says deliberate 'crash for cash' road traffic accidents up 51%, now at record levels

Article date: 17 June 2014

  • Motor injury fraud puts the public at risk of physical harm;
  • Aviva calls for stronger sentences to deter fraudsters
  • 87% of public believe custodial sentences send the strongest message

Fraudulent ‘slam-ons’ – road traffic accidents deliberately caused in order to claim for whiplash compensation – increased  by 51% in 2013, according to claims fraud data from Aviva.

These induced accidents have a value of over £10m and are at the highest levels ever detected by the insurer. In total, Aviva has over 6,000 motor injury claims linked to organised fraud activity and is calling for stronger deterrents whilst warning motorists to be vigilant behind the wheel.

Tom Gardiner, Head of Claims Fraud at Aviva, said, “The fast growth of induced accidents on our roads is cause for serious concern. Fraudsters are prepared to put the safety of innocent motorists’ and their families and passengers at risk for their own personal gain. Fraudulent accidents also divert significant public resources such as police, ambulances, emergency services and court time away from real need.

“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.”

Tragically, at least one motorist has been killed as a result of being caught up in an accident deliberately caused by fraudsters, and this risk seems to be increasing. Aviva is telling motorists who are concerned about being caught up in crash for cash how to avoid an accident, and what to do if you are involved in a crash for cash accident.*

Deterring Fraud

Data from The Sentencing Council reveals that community orders were the most common sentence handed out for fraud offences since 2004. Aviva believes this does little to deter crash for cash fraudsters from committing – and re-committing – induced accidents.

Aviva welcomes 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. Currently, even where a fraudster exaggerates his claim often by tens of thousands of pounds, he is still entitled to recover his original claim – and therefore there is little deterrent to discourage fraud.

There is strong support from the public for fraud convictions to attract stronger sentences. In consumer research**, two out of three (66%) respondents supported stronger sentences for convictions of motor injury fraud, while almost 9 in 10 (87%) felt custodial sentences sent the strongest message.

‘Citizens Jury’ Highlights Motorists Reaction

Aviva organised an independent ‘Citizen’s Jury’, which asked a small group of people for their thoughts on ‘crash for cash’ and their reactions to actual court cases. The results highlighted how emotive motor injury fraud is, driven in particular by the potential for innocent people to be hurt. One member said: ‘People’s lives…have been changed because [fraudsters] are trying to get something they are not entitled to’.

Fraudsters’ profiting from others’ misfortune provoked strong reactions as well: “It’s a lack of thought for others and the law: their view is ‘I’m just going to do what I want to do.”

Gardiner concluded, “The reach of crash for cash doesn’t stop at the scene of the accident, but impacts a wider circle of victims. Stronger deterrents, such as those announced by the Ministry of Justice, as well as more proportionate sentencing that recognises the very real threat of physical harm to the victim, will serve to further deter fraudsters, protect the public and keep premiums low for customers.”

-Ends-

If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Aviva Press Office:  Erik Nelson; 01603 682264; 07989 427086; erik.nelson@aviva.co.uk

Notes to editors:

Case studies available upon request.

* What to do if you are involved in an accident:

Be Vigilant: How to minimise the risk of being targeted by the cash for crash fraudsters:

  • Stay alert: Pay attention to your driving and the cars/traffic around you
  • Keep your distance: Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front. Allow sufficient space to stop or manoeuvre to avoid colliding with a vehicle in front
  • Check the brake lights: 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.
  • Warning signs: Is the car in front moving particularly slowly or is it slowing down and speeding up for no apparent reason?
  • Driver Behaviour: If the driver in front is focusing on the back of the vehicle, that could be a sign they are looking for an opportunity to induce an accident
  • Passenger Behaviour: Are the passengers in the vehicle in front turning around and looking at you for no apparent reason? They may be assessing an opportunity to induce an accident.
  • Collision Damage: Does the car in front look like it has been in other accidents – especially showing damage to its rear?

What to do if you are in an accident and are suspicious it may be fraudulent:

  • Stay calm. Don’t argue with the driver of the other vehicle and/or their passengers.
  • Call the Police immediately while you are still at the scene of the accident, inform them you suspect the accident is a cash for crash scam and ask them to attend the accident scene
  • Don’t admit liability to the other driver, passenger or anyone else that appears to be connected to them at the scene of the accident. Don’t agree to liability in writing, either.
  • Capture as much information as possible at the scene:
  • 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
  • the total number of passengers in the other vehicle, to include where they were sat in the vehicle immediately after the accident
  • Take pictures or video if you can, capturing any damage (or lack thereof) to the other vehicle and the scene of the accident
  • whether the driver of the other vehicle or any of their passengers are complaining of being injured and also if no one is complaining of being injured
  • whether the driver was reading from a document when dealing with you, or hands you a document with their details already recorded – were they overly prepared for an accident?
  • how the other vehicle left the scene of the accident (e.g. driven or towed away). If towed or transported away, make a note of the vehicle and registration number of the vehicle that took the car away, to include whether it displayed any business name
  • the names and addresses of any independent witnesses

It may not be possible to capture all the information shown above, however the more you can capture, the greater the benefit to your insurer when tackling the fraudsters.

Contact your insurer immediately after the accident to advise them of your suspicions and to provide them with all the information you have recorded. Keep a record of the information you supply to your insurer in case it is needed in the future.

**Research by  more than 2,000 UK motorists by Aviva. Please contact the Aviva Press Office for additional information and comments on Aviva’s ‘Citizen’s Jury’.

Aviva fraud figures at-a-glance:

  • Fraudulent ‘slam-ons’ grew by 51% in 2013 according to claims fraud data from Aviva.
  • The claims for induced accidents are worth more than £10m – the highest levels ever detected by the insurer.
  • In 2013 Aviva detected over £59m of motor injury fraud – more than any other form of insurance fraud.
  • Aviva currently has over 6,000 suspicious injury claims linked to known fraud rings, up 20% over 2012.
  • Organised gangs are behind 50% of all motor injury claims fraud detected by Aviva
  • Last year, Aviva detected over £110 million worth of fraud, up 19% on 2012.

About Aviva:

  • Aviva provides 31 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products.
  • We are one of the UK’s leading insurers and one of Europe’s leading providers of life and general insurance.
  • We combine strong life insurance, general insurance and asset management businesses under one powerful brand.
  • We are committed to serving our customers well in order to build a stronger, sustainable business, which makes a positive contribution to society, and for which our people are proud to work.
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