Getting into a car accident is always an unfortunate experience. All of the parties involved are either scared or angry (or both), and have to deal with the aftermath of injuries, car repairs, and possible litigation. And, while it’s understandable that some people seek legal remedies to cover their medical bills, property damage, and lost wages, there are also those who see these types of incidents as an opportunity to receive a financial windfall. But, considering that it is possible for someone to sustain injuries even after a relatively minor accident, how would you be able to tell if someone is exaggerating their claims to get a bigger payout? Or worse than that, what if they’re faking the whole thing?
What is insurance fraud?
Florida Statute 817.234 establishes that a person commits insurance fraud if that person has the intent to defraud an insurer by presenting a written or oral statement as part of a claim for payment from an insurance policy. It’s crucial that the party does so knowing that such a statement is false, incomplete, or misleading.
A person also commits insurance fraud if they knowingly conceal information that’s relevant to the case. In addition, the statute states that any attorney who knowingly assists, conspires with, or urges any person to file a fraudulent claim is also guilty of insurance fraud.
What are the penalties for insurance fraud?
The penalties for committing insurance fraud depend on the amount of money the person is attempting to obtain. If the value of the claim is less than $20,000, the offender commits a felony in the third degree. This is punishable by a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
If the value of the claim is $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000, the offender commits a felony of the second degree. This is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the value of the claim is $100,000 or more, the offender commits a felony of the first degree. This is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
How to Recognize False Injury Claims
Recognizing insurance fraud is not a clear-cut process. If you have suspicions that someone may be exaggerating their claims — or straight up filing a false one — your attorney would try to uncover the truth through a process called discovery. This is done by requesting to see relevant records, such as surveillance videos, medical records, bank statements, and anything else that may help you prove your case. Your attorney can also depose (take the sworn statement) of the party filing the claim, witnesses, doctors, and anyone else who’s involved in the case. A deposition could take hours or days, depending on how many questions your attorney wants to ask the person being deposed.
For example, let’s say you get into a minor accident with a teenager. The teenager suffers a broken foot. Your insurance company offers to pay for the broken foot. But then the teenager claims that the accident will now prevent him from playing collegiate football at a Big Ten university, so they are now asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement. You could request to see — in addition to the medical records — any documents relating to recruitment efforts by Big Ten colleges. You could also request to depose the teenager, their doctors, their coaches, and anyone else with firsthand knowledge of the circumstances. The claims of any future damage have to be foreseeable and likely, not wishful thinking or hypothetical.
What to Do When Someone Claims False Injury After a Car Accident in Florida
1. Do Not Admit Fault
Even if you got distracted when you got a text, or if you took your eyes off the road for a split second to read a billboard, don’t mention it. Tell your lawyer and see what you can do about it. But, don’t tell the other driver when you get out of the car after the accident. You don’t know if the other driver was also distracted. If they were speeding, driving under the influence, or scrolling through social media, then you were both negligent. This is relevant because Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction — meaning that whatever they can recover will be diminished based on their own fault. And, if it turns out that they were injured, you don’t want them to use your own words against you (e.g. “You admitted it was your fault, so you should pay for all of my injuries and all related consequences.”)
2. Do Not Talk With the Other Party
Whenever there’s a car accident, both parties’ insurance companies will get involved. They will each assign an adjuster and an attorney to the case, and if you’re not represented by your own lawyer, they will call you during the course of their investigation. It doesn’t matter how nice and reasonable they sound, their job is to limit their client’s liability. And the only way to do so is to pin most or all of the blame on you — which can be catastrophic in a financial sense if the other party is filing a false insurance claim. If you don’t have an attorney by the time you receive a first phone call, tell them you’d rather speak with an attorney first, then have your lawyer contact them.
3. Seek Legal Advice
Speak with an attorney and tell them all the reasons you think the other party may be making false injury claims. Whether you know for a fact that they play basketball every afternoon after work — despite their repeated allegations of back injuries — or whether you’ve seen social media posts showing them doing something that would be impossible if injured, your attorney will look for ways to confirm your suspicions. And, if it turns out that the other party is indeed injured, your attorney will get together all the pieces of the puzzle to look for ways to limit your liability.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.