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Protecting Yourself From Fraudulent Personal Injury Lawsuits

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Most people who file personal injury lawsuits are honest individuals who simply want to be compensated for the damages they suffered as the result of an auto accident. Unfortunately, the temptation to reach further into the deep pockets of insurance companies or well-off individuals leads some to commit fraud with the hope of squeezing more money out of the situation. If you were involved in an accident, here are a few ways to minimize your risk of being taken advantage of.

Types of Personal Injury Fraud

There are many different ways people can perpetuate fraud in a personal injury lawsuit, but the methods typically fall into two categories:

  • Soft fraud – In these cases, the perpetrator exaggerates the extent of their damages in order to increase the amount of money they receive as compensation. For example, neck strain may suddenly become a slipped disc or broken neck. People may also fake injuries or falsely attribute previous injuries to the accident.
  • Hard fraud – This type of fraud starts with the accident itself. One or more parties will purposefully cause an accident that results in property damage and real or fake injuries.

According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, fraudulent and exaggerated claims resulted in $4.8 billion to $6.8 billion in extra money paid out on those claims in 2007.

Things to Look Out for After an Accident

Every accident is different, but there are some common behaviors a motorist may display if he or she is thinking about pursuing a false personal injury claim:

  • Immediately attempting to assign blame even when they were clearly at fault or liability is difficult to determine
  • The person doesn't appear to be hurt, but complains of pain and discomfort and demands to be taken away in an ambulance
  • The individual seems to be overacting or using over-exaggerated movements to indicate he or she has been injured
  • Wanting to know the name of your attorney in lieu of or addition to your insurance information
  • Attempting to impede your ability to collect evidence (e.g. standing in front of property damage so you can't take pictures)
  • Making false or exaggerated statements to police and witnesses at the scene

Strengthening Your Defense

Even if the person is not intending to file a false lawsuit or fraudulently inflate an insurance claim, it's important that you do everything you can to document the accident when it occurs to ensure the incident is handled in a fair and just manner.

  • Immediately contact police and file an accident report. Do not allow the person to talk you into forgoing this step because then they could make up any story and you will have nothing official to counter their version of events. If the police refuse to come to the scene, go to the nearest station and file a report.
  • Take pictures of the scene, the damage to the vehicles and even the person. Use your video camera to record how the person is behaving at the scene. This can be invaluable if the person doesn't appear to be hurt but later claims injuries that are above and beyond what could have occurred in the accident.
  • Get the names and contact information of any witnesses at the scene. If you're comfortable doing so, record their testimony using your camera phone.
  • Under no circumstances should you admit fault for the accident. Guard your responses to any questions the other party asks.

Fraudulent claims and lawsuits can cause your insurance rates to go up and cost you an arm and a leg to defend in court. If you think someone is trying to take advantage of you with a fraudulent or inflated lawsuit, contact a personal injury attorney for assistance with developing an effective defense.