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11/27/2019 Freight volume and rates downturn turns into a 'bloodbath' 11/25/2019 Friday Short Haul - Independent contractors getting booted out of CA, winter weather resources, ransomware attack 11/22/2019 Knowing when to say goodbye to an unprofitable shipper 11/20/2019 Schneider donates trucks; Congress considers women-driver-friendly bill 11/18/2019 Friday Short Haul - CTA files lawsuit against California, Highway Hero nominations sought, video of "Move Over" crash 11/15/2019 Tesla announces new electric Semi model 11/13/2019 Not everyone happy with potential FMCSA clearinghouse delay 11/11/2019 Friday Short Haul - AI taking driving jobs, CRV scam, Truckers protest AB-5, ELDs quit working 11/8/2019 Investigators cracking down on truck accident fraudulent lawsuits 11/6/2019 So you want to start your own trucking company? 11/4/2019 Friday Short Haul - FMCSA emergency exemptions, snow plows, FedEx employee bribery charges 11/1/2019 Human smuggling via big rigs on the increase 10/30/2019 Carriers, drivers look at ways to deal with California's AB-5 10/28/2019 Friday Short Haul - Millennials and trucking, Truckers Christmas Group, Navistar settlement 10/25/2019 Too many drivers still don't know to "Move Over" 10/23/2019 Are trucker strikes a thing of the past? 10/21/2019 Friday Short Haul - Passenger car drivers, spotted lanternfly, women drivers 10/18/2019 OOIDA makes final push for better HOS rules 10/16/2019 Car-truck crash fatalities continue to increase 10/14/2019 Friday Short Haul - Amazon's fleet of day cabs, legislator's disclosure, WTA petition 10/11/2019 ATA chief takes on truck-accident lawyers 10/9/2019 Lonely on the road? Get a furry friend 10/7/2019 Friday Short Haul - Lab-grown meat, fraudulent freight brokering, FMCSA HOS committee, FMCSA Clearinghouse 10/4/2019 UPS takes giant leap in its drone delivery program 10/2/2019 Female drivers are safer bet for trucking companies 9/30/2019 Friday Short Haul - Embark gets financing, FMCSA announces safety grants, Covenant exits Mexico routes, and trucking statistics 9/27/2019 Emissions standards battle heats up between the EPA and California 9/25/2019 Smog checks in the future for California truck drivers 9/23/2019 Friday Short Haul - Volvo Dynamic Steering, Meals for 18 Wheels, speeding crackdown, OOIDA opposes legislation 9/20/2019 Telematics could be insurance-premium-saving boon for fleets 9/18/2019 54 percent of survey respondents still not impressed with telematics technology 9/16/2019 Friday Short Haul - Walmart video, it's churn, not shortage, California's independent contractor bill, hemp drivers plea 9/13/2019 TCA honors three Highway Angels 9/11/2019 Now they're talking about "smart" trailers 9/9/2019 Friday Short Haul - Detention-time comments, truck orders decline, diesel fuel shortage 9/6/2019 Berkeley study says reducing independent truckers can alleviate climate change 9/4/2019 Clearing up concerns about the drug and alcohol clearinghouse 9/2/2019 Friday Short Haul - Hurricane Dorian, Speed limiter bill, Thank a Driver campaign 8/30/2019 Georgia jury awards $280 million for truck-driver-caused multi-fatality 8/28/2019 Friday Short Haul - New eCascadias, Top cities for truck driver jobs, Push against driverless trucks 8/23/2019 Decision on California drivers' employee/contractor status coming down to the wire 8/21/2019 UPS jumps on autonomous bandwagon with TuSimple investment 8/19/2019 FMCSA publishes proposed HOS rule changes 8/16/2019 Fleets, drivers coming to like automated manual transmissions 8/14/2019 CVSA asks for new truck crash study 8/12/2019 Friday Short Haul - HOS revisions delayed, AEB mandate proposed, Koch sued for sex discrimination 8/9/2019 Kodiak Robotics takes lead in autonomous truck industry race 8/7/2019 New York City combats rash of cyclist/truck clashes 8/5/2019 Friday Short Haul - CRST wins lawsuit, OOIDA opposes insurance hike, UPSNav 8/2/2019 Mechanics shortage equals driver shortage in intensity 7/31/2019 DOT announces almost 1$ billion in grants to fix infrastructure 7/29/2019 Friday Short Haul - DOL on sleeper pay, UPS drone delivery, Geowiz ELDs 7/26/2019 FMCSA takes a look at assault, harassment of female and minority drivers 7/24/2019 It's hot out there, what's a trucker to do? Can't idle. 7/22/2019 Friday Short Haul - Utah truck rollovers, aging truckers, lifetime CDL bans 7/19/2019 Truck-mounted LED billboards coming under fire 7/17/2019 Trucker 'drones on' with unique approach to teaching driving skills 7/15/2019 Friday Short Haul - Rhode Island tolls, human smuggling, contractor vs employee status 7/12/2019 ELD mandate deadline looming, many still not compliant 7/10/2019 New "boot" device being deployed to threaten Walmart overnighters 7/8/2019 Friday Short Haul - Prime Inc vs Amazon, mother fights HOS changes, truck drivers appreciation week 7/5/2019 Proper way to fly the American flag on your truck this Fourth of July 7/3/2019 Roundabouts are becoming popular; but are they best for trucks? 7/1/2019 Friday Short Haul - Skills test proposal, driver shortage, hemp sentencing, driverless trucks 6/28/2019 Experts warn of active wildland fire season 6/26/2019 More states signing on to enlist truckers against human trafficking 6/24/2019 Friday Short Haul - Shippers of Choice, insurance rates, wheel spikes, WIT award 6/21/2019 Freight numbers not holding up to 2018's highs 6/19/2019 Truck safety group urges purges of drug abuse drivers 6/17/2019 Friday Short Haul - Self-driving certificate, truck platooning, trade war stacking up cargo 6/14/2019 HOS waiver coming soon for fireworks haulers 6/12/2019 FMCSA takes a further look at detention time 6/10/2019 Friday Short Haul - Autonomous delivery, HOS rules changes, CDL retest 6/7/2019 Roadcheck 2019 in effect this week 6/5/2019 Hemp arrest prompts USDA memo 6/3/2019 Friday Short Haul - Waymo big rigs, Move over sting, Under-21 comments 5/31/2019 Severe weather prompts renewed emergency declaration 5/29/2019 Memorial Day holiday is prime time for cargo thefts 5/25/2019 Friday Short Haul - Hauling hemp, road rage fatality, new rules for autonomous vehicles 5/24/2019 Autonomous trucks on USPS test run 5/22/2019 Future era of cab-less trucks will be the end of HOS rules 5/20/2019 Friday Short Haul - FMCSA under-21 comments, Tesla autonomous car crash, 24,000 drivers sign contract with YRC 5/17/2019 Under-21 interstate drivers getting serious look by FMCSA 5/15/2019 Trucker Buddy program matches drivers with a classroom; 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Accident scammers target trucks for financial payout

Dave Wickenhauser on Mon, March 11, 2019

Last Updated: Sun, March 10, 2019

Cartoon by Sarah Wickenhauser

A spate of fake accident claims against commercial vehicles in the New Orleans area highlights a growing problem for trucking companies.

Robert Runnels, a driver for Mississippi-based Whitestone Transportation, learned the hard way what it is like being targeted by a "cash for crash" scam. He told how he was flagged down by a motorist on Interstate 10 a little over a year ago and informed that his 18-wheeler had sideswiped another vehicle.

There was no damage to his truck, however, and there were no impact alerts recorded on his on-board data system.

That lack of evidence has not stopped the "victims" from suing, and Whitestone is set for trial this month facing what they believe is an obviously fake accident scheme that is out to reap a hefty reward from the commercial carrier. The complainants, there were several in the vehicle, are seeking $1 million in damages from the carrier for medical expenses, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, physical pain and suffering and inconvenience.

During preparations for the trail Whitestone's attorneys have discovered evidence of more than 30 other "accidents" in the New Orleans area with similar MOs to their own incident.

“These similar questionable facts included alleged accidents on Interstate 10 and/or 610 in the New Orleans area where an unknown third vehicle waves down an 18-wheeler driver that is unaware that he or she was allegedly involved in an accident,” Whitestone attorneys said in a counterclaim.

According to the Transport Topics news article, the New Orleans area has been experiencing a large number of similar cases that involve multiple people in a vehicle that sideswipes a commercial truck, but where there is little damage to their vehicle, and little or no damage to the commercial vehicle.

Furthermore, the commercial vehicle driver usually is unaware of having hit another vehicle.

The problem is that these scammers know that trucking companies are easy pickings for their scam.

Chance McNeely, executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, says why he believes trucking companies are victims of such staged accidents. “In our state, trucks are guilty until proven innocent,” he said.

“It’s always the same thing: Four people in a sedan, and there’s always a random witness who gives a loose statement to the cops and has a random appointment and has to get away," McNeely said. "And all too often they use the same attorneys and the same doctors."

McNeely said these kinds of scams drive up insurance rates; which he said in Louisiana are three to five times higher than the national average.

A short history of staged accidents

A blog at Automotive Fleet magazine gives some insight into this staged accident scenario.

Apparently this phenomenon got legs in the United States in the 1990 by scammers who would hire immigrants for as little as $100 to cause a crash with a commercial vehicle. Authorities became aware of the scam when one driver, Jose Luis Lopez Perez, died in his effort to effect the scam and it was discovered that he was part of a widespread fraud ring.

These "cash for crash" schemes are becoming a world-wide problem, with countries like the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia and Singapore reporting escalating incidences.

In the United States, the states most prone to commercial vehicles being targeted by these scams are what are called no-fault states, where laws require insurance companies to reimburse policyholders for medical expenses no matter who is at fault.

The states with the highest number of these incidences are Florida, New York, California, Texas and Illinois, with the top five cities being New York City, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, and Houston.

What are the typical staged accidents

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there are some typical scenarios that will get a commercial driver ensnared in a fake accident scam. The more-sophisticated scammers have "witnesses" to these fake accidents who add their stories to the police reports implicating the innocent truck drivers.

  • The Drive Down -- On entering traffic the truck driver is motioned by a "helpful" scammer motorist that it is safe to do so. But, as the driver begins to merge, the scammer speeds up and crashes into the truck. Naturally, the scammer denies making the helpful gesture.
  • The Left Turn – A truck driver wants to make a left turn off the road into a destination and receives a gesture from a "helpful" motorist to go ahead and complete his turn. The scammer then speeds up and crashes into the truck, knowing that in virtually every case the truck driver will be "at fault" for failure to yield to oncoming traffic.
  • The Panic Stop – A vehicle driving in front of a truck has a passenger watch for the truck driver to avert his gaze for a second who then alerts the scam driver to make a panic stop. When the truck rear-ends the vehicle it is a guaranteed win for the scammer because virtually everywhere it is considered the truck driver's fault for following too close.
  • The Panic Stop With Friend – Same as the panic stop, but even more aggressive. This is where the scammer has an accomplice or two who drive alongside the victim trucker, thus preventing him or her from being able to change lanes to avoid the collision with the panic stopper.
  • The Side Swipe – This one usually occurs at double left-turn lanes where the scammer side swipes the truck claiming the truck driver had driven outside his lane.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

The NICB offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim of these types of fake accident scams:

  • Avoid tailgating.
  • Immediately call the police to an accident scene.
  • Use the camera function on your cell phone or carry a disposable camera to document damage and the number of occupants in other vehicles.
  • Avoid “runners” and “cappers” – people who suddenly appear at an accident scene to try to direct you to particular doctors and attorneys, as they are typically part of the criminal scheme.
  • Be wary of physicians who insist you file a personal injury claim after an accident, especially if you are not hurt.
  • Steer clear of tow trucks that appear when you have not called for service, as they are often “cappers” for body shops.

Sources: Transport Topics, Automotive Fleet, NICB

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