Staged Car Accidents and False Insurance Claims
We see the scenario in movies pretty often. A character appears to be badly injured after his car is totaled, but he is able to pay for medical care and buy a brand new car with insurance proceeds.
By: James Davis
Later, the audience learns that the wreck was staged and the injuries were fake, made up by the character to defraud his insurance company.
When this happens in real life, Florida’s criminal justice system can be tough on the actors involved, leading to charges of theft and fraud.
A Pecuniary Motive?
The Sun Sentinel recently ran a story about two men who were arrested in West Palm Beach after investigators say they staged a car crash and filed false insurance claims that cost insurance companies more than $52,000. The alleged scheme was concocted almost three years ago. One of the men, Amado Rodriguez, tried to make a U-turn on Congress Avenue at 10 p.m. on August 23, 2010, and a crash occurred, the details of which are not yet known. Investigators claim that Rodriguez and his passenger, Rene Aquino, were not injured in the crash but later billed their insurance companies for 38 treatments allegedly related to the crash. Rodriguez and Aquino were booked into Palm Beach County Jail on April 17, 2013 and face fraud and larceny charges.
Florida Law on Staged Accidents
In Florida, staging an accident can lead to charges of grand theft and insurance fraud. Grand theft is treated as a third degree felony if $300 or more was stolen from the insurance company as part of the scheme. In Florida, a third degree felony is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a monetary fine. For a theft valued at less than $300, it is treated as a misdemeanor petty theft that is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a monetary fine. A criminal defense attorney can explain more about the differences between felonies and misdemeanors.
You could also face charges of insurance fraud if you are accused of staging an accident. Insurance fraud is a felony under Florida law. It is punishable by a range of 5 to 30 years in prison and a monetary fine, depending on the amount of money the insurance company lost. If a person is found guilty of insurance fraud, the insurance company can also sue that person civilly for the loss caused by a deceptive insurance claim. Therefore, it is very important to have effective legal representation during a criminal case.
Charges of insurance fraud and grand theft may only be the tip of the iceberg. For example, a person could be charged with criminal conspiracy if he or she is accused of agreeing to file false insurance claims with another person or a group of people. Such additional charges could increase criminal penalties.
Know Your Rights
Florida ranks first in the nation for staged accidents and insurance scams, so Florida police and courts can come down hard on the actors involved. The number of convictions statewide for staged accidents rose from 123 to 189 in the last two years. If you or someone you know is accused of staging an accident or defrauding an insurance company, contact Attorney James Davis immediately.