Thousands of car accidents happen a year, and unfortunately some criminals are looking to profit off of these tragedies. Consequently, a fraudulent practice known as “staged accidents” or “staged car accidents” is on the rise, and puts drivers at physical and financial risk.

What is a Staged Car Accident 

A staged car accident is a type of insurance fraud that involves deliberately causing a car accident. The accident is purposely set to look like the other party is at fault, in order to potentially collect a large insurance payout. Even if you are injured in these staged accidents, the criminal will lie and try to make it as difficult as possible for you to receive compensation for your injuries. In a usual car accident, personal injury attorneys like the team at Douglas Haug & Heidemann will fight to prove the other parties’ fault, and help you recover compensation to recover from your injuries. However, if the accident is staged, the criminal party will likely have a well-rehearsed cover story, to create an accident that appears to be your fault.

Two common types of staged car accidents are:

  • The Swoop and Squat which is a two car scheme. One car drives beside the victim and the other stops suddenly in front of them. The goal here is to cause a rear end accident, by preventing the victim from swerving out of the way.
  • The Drive Down, also known as the Wave On. This type of fraud involves the criminal giving a wave of permission to a driver that otherwise wouldn’t have had the right of way. When the victim commits to turning, since they were waved on by the stager, they are purposely crashed into. After the accident occurs, the stager adamantly denies ever waving the victim on.

What Are The Legal Consequences of a Staged Accident? 

Yes, staging an accident is both extremely dangerous and highly illegal. If found guilty, you can be facing jail time. The exact charges can vary from state to state, but in California, if you are found guilty of insurance fraud, the charges can bring up to 5 years and an additional 3-5 years if the victim was at all injured during the accident.

Another potential charge would be assault with a deadly weapon, which can carry four or more years depending on the severity of injuries sustained.

Undoubtedly, accident staging is a serious crime that carries severe penalties. If you are charged with staging an accident, criminal defense attorneys like Graham Donath can help you fight these charges.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim 

Sometimes, staged accidents are impossible to avoid. But here are some tips to help prevent a staged accident:

  • Oftentimes luxury and commercial vehicles are targeted by accident stagers. If you drive either of these types of cars, installing front and rear cameras can help you prove criminal intent.
  • Keep as much distance as you can on the freeway, from cars in front of you or cars ahead of you. Swoop and Squat accidents are the hardest to avoid, and the most potentially dangerous, so just be as alert as you can on the road.
  • Always follow right of way rules. Even if a driver waves you on, wave them back and insist that all traffic laws are followed each time.