South Carolina is experiencing a rash of faked car accidents and it’s putting a strain on local emergency response teams, police and innocent motorists.

There are a variety of takes on the insurance scam involving car accidents that are staged purely for profit amid the hopes of a quick insurance settlement. Some variations, admittedly, involve some not-so-innocent motorists — like people who claim that they were run off the road by a mysterious driver who kept on going. That’s a common method to total a car that someone can no longer afford and collect a little payment for nonexistent injuries.

Other times, scammers involve other hapless drivers in their cons. A staged accident can involve the con artist suddenly cutting in front of another car and hitting the brakes — forcing an “accident.” Others involve one driver waving another on to merge or turn, then hitting them and denying they signaled. The thieves aim for low-speed accidents so they don’t really get hurt — but they claim extensive soft-tissue injuries that are hard to disprove. Sometimes a car will be packed with the fraudster’s friends, all of whom claim to be injured.

In general, the con artists know that a claim for a few thousand dollars — anything under $10,000 — will probably fly under the insurance company’s radar. Anything bigger might trigger internal investigations at least.

For regular drivers, these scams pose a real problem. They tie up emergency vehicles that are needed for real accidents. They distract police officers who are needed elsewhere. They also result in increased premiums for drivers. And, of course, sometimes the innocent drivers caught up in these scams end up hurt for real. They can end up having trouble collecting for their injuries, however, because of all the scams out there.

There’s not much you can do to protect yourself except be conscious of the problem and cautious on the road. And — if you’re involved in a car accidentseek legal advice if the insurance company doesn’t seem to believe you or isn’t playing fair.

Source: The Post and Courier, “Staged car crashes a growing menace in South Carolina,” Prentiss Findlay, March 20, 2018