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Los Angeles is the state capital of staged car crashes

SAN GABRIEL, CA - JUNE 11: Hin Lee takes a photo of his car after getting into a accident at the 400 block of South San Gabriel Boulevard June 11, 2012 in San Gabriel, California. This intersection was the scene of the first of two accidents that occurred June 9, involving Commerce Secretary Bryson. The Commerce Department has said that Bryson had suffered seizures.  (Photo by Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images)
Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images
How can drivers avoid becoming victims of auto insurance fraud?

The County of Los Angeles has a new $6.9 million grant to to clamp down on car insurance fraud rings.

Yes, it’s true. The County of Los Angeles has a new $6.9 million grant to rid itself of that dubious honor as the fraudulent accident capital of California.

The money will be used to clamp down on car insurance fraud rings made up of medical professors like doctors who diagnose fake injuries, and lawyers who file fake claims, middle men who find cars to crash, and fake “victims” recruited to participate in these staged crashes.

According to county officials, auto insurance fraud adds $200 to $300 more in premiums for Los Angeles drivers each year.

Here's how it usually works. Criminals target a vehicle. One car moves in front of the victim, then another car swoops in front of the accomplice vehicle and slams on its breaks. This causes the victim vehicle to slam into the person in front of them. 

Sometimes the criminal enterprise will also have other accomplice vehicles near by to ask as witnesses. 

In 2012, 43 percent of all fraud claims made in California came from Los Angeles, for a total of 7,700. Dave Jones, commission for the California Department of Insurance, says that about $2.3 million of the grant will target organized auto insurance fraud and the rest of the money will go toward fighting auto insurance fraud in general.

How can drivers avoid becoming victims of auto insurance fraud? What kind of staged car crashes are out there?

What to do if you get in one of these accidents?

- Take notes of EVERYTHING. 
- Watch the people who are getting out of the vehicle. Sometimes criminals will falsely claim that      more people were in the car than actually were. 
- If the insurance is relatively new, this may be a red flag. 
- Accurately describe to your insurance how the event occurred: Did the person in front of you stop short for no reason?
- Take several pictures, Make sure you get all angles of the car and get good pictures of the impact point.

If you suspect fraud, Jones recommends you file a police report, get the names and contact information for the driver, passengers and witnesses, then call the Department of Insurance at 1-800-927-4357.

Rick Plein, Deputy Commissioner in the Enforcement Branch of the California Department of Insurance

Robert Passmore, Senior Director for Personal Lines for Property Casualty Insurers Association of America

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