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Staged Motor Vehicle Collisions

January 23, 2018

Auto insurance fraud has been a problem for years. According to a report prepared for the Insurance Bureau of Canada in 2012 , auto insurance fraud in Ontario alone was estimated at up to $1.6 billion. This equated to 18% of total auto insurance premiums. Insurance fraud increases the cost of premiums for all drivers, taxes emergency service response teams and exposes innocent drivers to injuries and costly risks.

There are many forms of insurance fraud and staged auto collisions are just one way for people to extract money from insurance companies.  Staged collisions are ones in which the circumstances of the incidents have been premeditated. They can involve unscrupulous individuals or, in more complex scenarios, organized crime rings in which several people work together to create the false claim and attempt to benefit from the proceeds. Here are some typical staged scenarios:

•    An unscrupulous driver offers the right of way to an innocent driver (e.g. waves them in to enter an intersection) but then purposely collides with the innocent party.
•    A driver of a vehicle, filled with several occupants, slams on the brakes to cause an innocent trailing driver to rear end the culprit’s vehicle.
•    A collision takes place and the people that were not involved come forward to make injury claims for having been in one of the vehicles.
•    An opportunistic vehicle owner makes a claim for damages either not caused in the collision or has enhanced the damage to increase the value of the claim.

A common staged collision scenario that occurs is when a driver claims they struck a moving vehicle that crossed their path when, in fact, the t-boned vehicle was stationary. In this type of collision configuration, there is sliding between the contacting surfaces and horizontal or angled striations will form. If the collision is staged and the t-boned vehicle is stationary, this will be identified instead by the presence of vertically oriented striations within the contacted regions. Enhanced vehicle damage and confirmation of alleged contact can also be confirmed by comparing damage profiles on the two vehicles involved. Understanding that the collision force acting between two vehicles is equal and opposite, discrepancies in the extent or type of damage can be identified. Further, repair appraisals list items on the vehicle that need repair or replacement. These appraisals can also help to determine whether the scope of repairs identified are consistent with the extent of expected damage for the stated incident circumstances and the other vehicle’s corresponding damage.

Over the last decade, the proliferation of automotive sensors and passive restraint systems in motor vehicles have resulted in more electronic information that can be recorded in the event of an incident. Most passenger vehicles on the road today have on-board electronic modules with the capability of recording information in the event of an air bag deployment or other sensed vehicle deceleration. By accessing and downloading data from these on-board modules, additional information regarding occupants within the vehicle can be ascertained. For example, seat position, passenger presence, passenger size, seat belt restraint status, and pre-tensioner deployment can provide details needed to confirm or deny the presence of an occupant in a specific seating position. As well, inspection of a vehicle’s interior also provides insight into seat positions, occupant contact with the interior and restraint system tell-tale indicators, helping to determine how many people were inside the vehicle during a collision.

This article has briefly introduced some of the circumstances of staged auto collisions that can be encountered, but the variety of possible scenarios is countless. At CEP-Sintra, we have experience investigating staged auto collisions. Collision circumstances can often be proven or disproven based on review of the remaining physical evidence, repair appraisals and electronic data. Review of damage sustained by vehicles in an alleged collision can yield conclusions as to how fast the vehicles were travelling, whether the two identified vehicles contacted one another and what directions they were travelling. There are many engineering tools and techniques available to prove or disprove alleged auto collision scenarios. So, if you have such a case, then don’t hesitate to reach out and find out what actions can be taken to help resolve the claim.  

  [1] Auto Insurance Fraud in Ontario – KPMG Forensic Report, June 13, 2012. Retrieved from  

Written by Andrew Happer


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