When a traffic wreck occurs, people are sometimes tempted to lie about what happened in order to avoid the potential financial or criminal consequences of being found at fault for the accident. It's important to tell the police and the insurance company your side of the story. As long as there is evidence, the truth usually will come out.
Document the Accident
If you are involved in an accident, don't just exchange insurance and driver's license information with the other party. Collect evidence of what really happened. If there were bystanders who witnessed the wreck, ask them if they would be willing to make a statement to the police, and then get their contact information. If you have a camera, use it to take pictures of any damage or other points of interest at the scene. Observe the people from the other vehicle for evidence of intoxication and make a note of whatever you find.
Read More: How to Write an Accident Report
File a Police Report
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from fraud is to file a police report detailing your side of the story. This report will be the decisive source of information for the insurance companies and, if necessary, the courts. Tell the police exactly what happened. Let them know of any bystanders who might be willing to talk to them, and inform them of any notes you took or evidence you collected. Be sure not to admit to any fault, and if you know whose fault it was, tell the police who you think is responsible (if you're not sure, let them know you're not sure, but make sure they know it wasn't you). These statements are your best protection against fraudulent claims.
Contact Your Insurance Company
After filing the police report, contact your insurance company and tell them everything you told the police. Your insurance company is initially going to be on your side. They won't want to have to pay any money, and they'll exert a reasonable effort to protect their bottom line. The other party may resist your claim, and, if he or she lies in the process, this is your opportunity to dispute these lies explicitly. If you have any physical or logical evidence to discredit them, pass it along to your insurance company.
Go to Mediation
If your insurer offers you an unsatisfactory resolution – especially if the resolution involves an admission of liability on your part if you feel the accident was not your fault – then instruct them to take your claim to mediation. If mediation is resolved in your favor, that's the end of the story. If not, then you may want to escalate the claim by hiring an attorney and taking the case to arbitration.
Report Suspected Fraud
Some people intentionally stage auto wrecks in order to make false insurance claims. This is insurance fraud, an illegal industry that pilfers billions of dollars annually. If you are involved in an accident and suspect that the other party is a professional con artist who staged the wreck deliberately, inform both the police and your insurer of your suspicions – and be prepared to hire an attorney.
Take pictures of the collision and the contact details of any bystanders who witnessed the wreck. This evidence will help to support your side of the story.
Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.