|Updated: 5/15/2012 11:17 am
||Published: 5/15/2012 7:39 am
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The next time you pass an accident on the side of the road, you might end up paying for it. We're not just talking about the cost to fix the car.
This story is about people who are in the business of profiting off of car wrecks. And how they end up with your personal information.
There’s a lot of money being paid out.
“I could make from anywhere from $200 a week to unlimited.”
If they bring a certain number of cases in a month they may get a bonus
“If I get five people in the clinic a week, that's a $1000.”
Sometimes they go to their home and visit them in person.
“Yes, we go door to door.”
“Runners” are people who get the accident report from the police, find the person not at fault, and offer to help them navigate the insurance claim system.
Your personal information is on the police report. Once the runners have it, your phone starts ringing.
“This is Tonya calling regarding your accident on yesterday. I'd like to talk to you about the accident and see if you are receiving any pain and suffering or any complications.”
We sent our intern with an iPhone to the Little Rock Police Department and found a lot of people going thru accident reports.
It turns out that the information can be lucrative, which explains this call:
“I can also offer you free chiropractic services at no cost to you,” says the runner. “And at the end of your therapy, if you want compensation I do that as well and that way you're not having to pay a lawyer.”
One man, who asked that we hide his identity, tells us he makes his living as a runner.
“I get paid by the body count,” he says. “I get paid a certain amount of money an individual going into therapy that I referred in. They have to make at least three visits.
“We have to coach people that say they don't have any injuries, because a lot of time people say nothing's hurting me but if you talk to them a little more and you find out something is actually hurting them.”
And that's the problem according to Gary Stephenson with State Farm Insurance.
“What that does is cause sometimes people to claim a hurt when there is none at all or exaggerate their injury,” he says.
Stephenson says exaggerated claims cost insurers between $80- and $100-billion a year. Who pays for it? You do. To the tune of an extra $300 annually for every household in the US.
To fight this, Texas passed a law preventing runners or anyone else from contacting people within the first 30 days of an accident. A similar proposal in the Arkansas legislature died in committee.
There's talk of bringing another proposal before lawmakers - but no word on when.
“But here's something else you should know. We are mostly ex-cons. People with felonies. Just about everybody has had a felony or had a felony expunged.”
But - like it not - getting police reports is legal. So is calling or knocking on your door.
Runners call it marketing.
That's what we do but they call us some of everything,” one runner says. “I don't care because all you are to me is a dollar sign. You can call me whatever you like just get in the clinic.”
Stephenson says most medical providers are honest and do good work. But some raise a red flag with questionable and repeat claims.
“We fight it one case at a time,” he says. “One claim at a time.”
Fighting it to make sure the people who pay car insurance aren't getting stuck with unnecessary costs.
We also discovered that runners typically target lower income communities, finding people who might be down on their luck and more likely enticed by the thought of getting some extra cash.
What happens when a health provider is caught with fraudulent claims? Insurance fraud is a felony, plain and simple. But authorities have to prove a crime is committed.