Special Report: Staged Car Accidents

Accidents happen every day across the nation, including here in Arkansas. 

Odds are good that at some point you will be a victim.

But what you may not realize is that some of these fender benders are actually planned out in advance. 

Staged accidents are on the rise across the nation and here in Arkansas.

And these Hollywood productions are costing Arkansans a boatload.

Little Rock resident Sandra Holloway knows what its like to be a victim of a staged accident. 

She was making a left hand turn on to Markham when she was targeted by a ring of criminals. 

“I just turned my back and they hit me, and my head hit the glass door on my side, and I could feel my car skidding, crunching and all of that," Holloway recalled.

Fortunately for Holloway, she was not seriously injured, but she immediately knew something wasn’t right.

“I told my husband when I got home, I said, 'They hit me on purpose,'" Holloway said.

Her suspicions were right. After a long and thorough investigation by Little Rock Police and the Arkansas Insurance Department, Holloway learned that the people who hit her were actually part of an insurance car fraud ring.

The investigation revealed that in 2008, Frederick Watson and his cousin Mark Watson had carefully orchestrated and conducted a staggering 46 “staged” accidents over a 12-year period. 

During that time, Frederick Watson collected more than $300,000 from insurance claims.

Staged accidents are nothing new.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), staged accidents or false claims are up 46 percent across the nation. They’re also up here in Arkansas. 

In 2010, the NICB investigated more than 566 questionable claims here in the Natural State. 

In 2011, the numbers dipped slightly to 536. 

But in 2012, they shot up to more than 750.

And the costs associated with staged accident claims cost taxpayers roughly $60 billion a year. 

“That equates to about $400 to $600 per insurance paying household in the United States,” said Rick Morgan with State Farm Insurance in North Little Rock.

The problem is so bad that drivers in Russia and Canada are now mounting dash cams in their cars just to protect themselves from criminals. It's a smart move according to Morgan, especially considering how much money these criminals can rake in. 

“The minimum liability limit in Arkansas is $25,000," Morgan said. "So they’re looking at that. That’s on an individual basis. $25,000 per individual, $50,000 per accident.

“It’s a little cottage industry at times in some places.”

State Farm Insurance
is doing all it can to crackdown on the criminals. At the North Little Rock office on East McCain Boulevard, there are five full-time members of a special investigative unit.

Their goal is to investigate questionable claims and uncover the truth. Morgan says criminals typically target the elderly or females driving nice cars.

“They feel that newer cars would obviously have more insurance, higher liability limits would give them more money to go after," Morgan says.

And when the criminals “go after” a specific target, they use well thought out and planned methods of attack.  Here is a list of some of them:
  • Drive Down
  • Swoop & Squat
  • Panic Stop

(To see these three methods, be sure to watch the embedded videos.)

Holloway doesn’t remember which method the criminals used to target her, but she does remember being blamed for the accident.

And proving that it’s not, isn’t easy, especially when the criminals bring with them additional victims and witnesses who are all in on the scheme.

Morgan offers more advice on ways to not be a victim of a staged car accident here.

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