Staged “crash for cash” road collisions rose by half last year as criminals cash in on fraudulent personal injury claims, a leading insurer claimed yesterday.
Lawyers said vans were being targeted by gangs who believe that tradesmen on tight deadlines are unlikely to challenge the other driver and are likely to have fully comprehensive insurance.
Insurers are calling for stricter deterrents, including more custodial prison sentences and the dismissal of claims that are found to be exaggerated.
Earlier this month, Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, announced measures designed to combat fraud, which is believed to cost every household £50 in additional insurance premiums.
Staged “slam-on” crashes, where a vehicle brakes suddenly, causing the following motorist to hit it from behind, rose by 51 per cent in 2013, fraud data compiled by Aviva showed. It said that the value of staged collisions on its books had reached a record £10 million.
It advised motorists to leave extra space from the car in front and be wary of vehicles whose brake lights are not working or whose passengers turn to face them while the car is moving.
Tom Gardiner, head of claims fraud at Aviva, said that the induced accident fraudsters should face jail sentences. Separately, a study has revealed that gangs are targeting “white van man”. Vans were involved in a third of deliberate crashes in the past year, APU, an anti-car fraud company, and Hill Dickinson, a law firm, found.
Neil Thomas, of APU, said: “Britain’s light commercial vehicle drivers are a hard-working lot and are very often pushed for time, so they are less likely to stand by the side of the road arguing the case about a collision. The criminals are banking on the fact that they will simply exchange insurance details and move on. It’s cynical but it works.”
Drivers are also being warned of a “flash for cash” tactic employed by fraudsters who entice motorists out of junctions by flashing their headlights only to be hit by the oncoming vehicle.
Fraud was estimated to have cost insurers £1.3 billion last year. Mr Grayling said that he expected premiums to fall following anti-fraud measures.
Among proposals is a ban on lawyers and claims firms offering incentives such as tablet computers or cash to claimants. The courts will be told to dismiss claims if shown to be exaggerated.
Independent medical boards will assess whiplash injury claims from October. Whiplash payments add £90 to the average insurance premium.