It has long been suspected that fraudsters target commercial vehicles to induce accidents and bring a claim. Ian Emery analyses data from our Netfoil database which indicates that this is more than just a hunch…

The problem

The motor insurance industry has long suspected that commercial vehicles are vulnerable to fraudsters looking to induce an accident to make some cash. The fraudsters orchestrating these claims are often involved in other, sometimes serious, criminal activity. Many defendant drivers report ‘decoy vehicles’ used to force purportedly innocent vehicles to brake, causing the defendant driver to collide with the rear of the vehicle. This often happens on a slip road or the approach to a roundabout. Multiple personal injury claims are then made, along with claims for vehicle damage, storage, recovery and credit hire charges. A typical staged accident can cost an insurer or self-insured company around £30,000.

Evidence of this trend has been anecdotal – until now. With details of over 12 million road traffic accidents now held in Netfoil, it is time to see whether that trend can be confirmed.

The data

Vans account for approximately 10% of the 35 million licensed vehicles currently on the road in Great Britain. While the number of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) is decreasing, the number of vans is increasing. Many hauliers are becoming less reliant on HGVs and are using an increased number of vans. While vans accounted for approximately 10% of new vehicles registered in 2013, the figures so far for 2014 suggest that van sales are up 16%.

Analysis of data within Netfoil shows that the top four vehicles likely to be involved in a non-specific, or general, claim are: Ford Focus (10.21%), Vauxhall Astra (10.2%), Vauxhall Corsa (8.9%) and Ford Fiesta (8.6%). Fifth on the list (at 7.3%) is not a car, but a van: Ford Transit - the only van that features in the top 20.

However, analysis of the data for induced accidents paints a different picture. The most common vehicle in induced claims is the Ford Transit van with 15.2% - a much higher percentage than any of the vehicles for general claims. In fact, there are six vans featuring in the top 20 vehicles for induced accidents, compared with only one for general accidents.

This data strongly indicates that van drivers are being targeted.

Why?

Vans are probably seen as easy targets because:

  • as commercial vehicles, they are more likely to be insured;
  • they are larger and heavier than cars which increases the stopping distance, making a rear end shunt in a slam on type accident more likely;
  • drivers are likely to be working to a tight deadline and, on the basis that the insurance policy is not their own, are less likely to dispute liability or take an interest in defending the claim.

Couple this with the ever increasing levels of online shopping and home deliveries, there will be more of these ‘target’ vehicles on the road.

What can be done?

The first step is to ensure that drivers are aware that they may be targeted and are aware of the methods that may be adopted by organised fraudsters when trying to induce a collision. Delivery drivers may well be driving under tight deadlines, but it is still important to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front and to be aware of other vehicles driving in a suspicious manner.

The next step is to ensure that drivers know what steps to take if they are involved in an accident. Some companies use ‘Bump Cards’ to be completed at the scene and used as a checklist for the driver to obtain standard information. This information or card can then be used as evidence if the claimant pursues a claim. It is important that drivers complete these and that they make a specific note of the damage to each vehicle, along with the number of occupants in the third party vehicle. Drivers should also take photographs of both vehicles at the scene, if at all possible.

Developments in technology are also making it easier to defend fraudulent claims. A number of clients have introduced on-board camera systems that combine with GPS to assist in the defence of induced accident claims. Footage from on-board cameras can lead to spurious claims being dropped instantly and the prosecution and conviction of those involved.

Conclusion

Awareness of the tactics adopted by fraudsters, and the resultant vulnerability of vans, will go a long way toward reducing exposure to these types of accidents. At Hill Dickinson, we are committed to delivering this message to drivers and have introduced driver awareness pyramid training programmes which will hopefully enable clients to protect themselves from these types of claims.

The Netfoil data should serve as a warning to those operating fleets of vans, as fraudulent insurance claims could quite easily become an unnecessary financial burden on their business. It is important that clients make themselves a hard target and to actively promote the steps they are taking in order to deter the organised fraudster.