By Sarah Lewis
You’re driving a familiar route when suddenly the car in front brakes. You have no time to stop and, before you know it, you’ve bumped the car in front.
The other driver gets out, blaming you for the crash. You exchange insurance details and they drive away leaving you wondering, “What just happened?”
This is known as ‘crash for cash’: a common insurance scam where a car accident is staged in order to make an insurance claim. A similar crime is ‘flash for cash’, when another driver flashes their lights to let you out at a junction, and then drives into you. Both are fraud. And both are illegal.
The crime we all pay for
Cases like this can be incredibly difficult for both insurers and drivers to prove who was at fault.
As well as being dangerous – many passengers are injured in the process – victims of crash for cash can end up seriously out of pocket.
They might have to pay the excess on their insurance, be left without the use of their car, need time off work and lose their no claims discount.
Dash cams to the rescue
The fear of crash for cash is one of the reasons why there’s been a surge in dash cam ownership – recent figures show 7.7 million 1 UK drivers are now using one.
Dash cams are small, usually inexpensive, cameras that record your view of the road. The valuable evidence they provide means that if you’re unlucky enough to have an accident – or are a victim of crash for cash – you can prove exactly what happened to your insurers.
In a recent survey by Aviva 2, 76% of dash cam users said they used one to provide evidence of any incidents on the road and 60% were particularly concerned about crash for cash.
Safety was another concern – with almost a third (30%) of users saying they felt safer driving with one – and 16% said they hoped it would reduce their insurance premium.
The next generation of dash cams
Dash cams have become more affordable in recent years, which may help explain their growing popularity.
They’re also easier to install and use. A few years ago, installing a dash cam meant wiring hardware into your vehicle, which was both time-consuming and cumbersome. Getting the video footage off the device and to insurers was also difficult, owing to large video files, which is no longer the case.
Now, it’s as easy as opening an app on your smartphone. Literally. The free Aviva Drive app offers a dash cam mode, where users simply attach their phone to the windscreen, switch it on and drive.
Paul Heybourne, Head of Innovation and Mobile at Aviva, explains why it’s more innovative and user-friendly than previous models: “Unlike traditional dash cams, users can email footage straight from the app to our claims team, making it faster and easier to resolve a dispute,” he says.
“We knew that people found it difficult to send us large video files from dash cams and storage space on smartphones was a problem. Using crash detection capability, the Drive app only saves the last 30 seconds of footage before an impact, not the entire journey, so it doesn’t use up precious memory on your phone.”
The fight against fraud
People worried about crash for cash might be reassured to hear that the law is changing to tackle fraudsters.
The Civil Liability Act was passed in December 2018 and will change how compensation for some claims is calculated. Excessive compensation will no longer be paid for minor injuries such as whiplash, deterring criminals from committing a crash for cash crime.
Genuine claimants will still be able to get the compensation they need, says Aviva’s UK Claims Director Andrew Morrish.
“Until now, we’ve all paid into a system that rewards fraudsters, personal injury lawyers and claims management companies at the expense of honest drivers,” he says.
“The new law will help insurers to focus on those with genuine injuries and claims, and ensures we help them when they need us most.”
The changes to the law will take effect in 2020 and fraud remains a huge issue for insurers and honest drivers (estimated to cost insurers £340m a year 3).