Last year, our home town of Birmingham was given the pretty awful accolade of being the worst area in the country for ‘crash for cash’ claims – you know, those ones where someone causes an accident so they can claim on your car insurance for whiplash. Something we know ALL about.
Back in May 2010, before we had the kids, I was still driving around in my first car. It was a 15-year-old Rover, and nothing special, but I loved it. One evening, we went over to our friend’s house for dinner. They lived a good 30 mins drive away, so we agreed that I would have a few drinks and Graham would stick to pop and be the driver that night.
We stayed quite late, leaving about 2am. It was raining quite heavily, so we took it easy on the way home. We got three-quarters of the way home before hitting a not so nice area, which is named the very worst part for these types of claims (which I had never heard of before then!). I remember feeling a little bit uncomfortable as we drove through, as it isn’t a particularly nice part of the city, but brushing it off. After all, at that time in the morning, it was pretty quiet. There was a car ahead of us, but because of the rain, Graham kept a safe distance back.
Or so we thought.
The next thing I knew Graham was braking heavily and trying to miss hitting the car in front, which for absolutely no reason at all had stopped dead in the middle of the road. His brake lights hadn’t come on, so Graham hadn’t realised he had stopped until it was too late. Because it was so wet, we slid straight into the back of him, completely battering the front of my car.
We all got out, I threw up a little bit from the shock and did the usual exchange of details. Two youngish men got out of the car, and were very polite and were keen to check that we were ok. They noticed that we had a car seat in the back (from taking our niece out the previous day), and they seemed genuinely upset. Of course, we didn’t even think to call the police, thinking it was a genuine accident that was our fault. Their car, an oldish little thing, had a little dent on the back bumper but nothing too bad. Anyway, we swapped details and off we went home, with the front of my car looking rather worse for wear.
The next day we ended up going to a car dealership and taking out finance for a new Corsa. I was gutted that my car was a write-off, but put it down to being one of those things. A few weeks later, a letter popped through the letterbox addressed to me. Apparently, the three (!!!) young men in the car were claiming against Graham and me for whiplash. Now, I’m pretty sure that the bump wasn’t hard enough to cause serious whiplash like they were claiming for, but what really annoyed me was this random third man that appeared in this document. Unless he had borrowed Harry Potter’s invisible cloak that evening, he certainly wasn’t there. Even worse, later in the document, there was a space where it had asked them to fill out the details of their insurance company. Their answer? UNINSURED.
Yes. They clearly stated on a legal document they were uninsured at the time of the accident. The bloody cheek!
We got in touch with the police straight away, but sadly, they weren’t interested that we had proof of an uninsured driver. There was nothing we could do, apart from hope that our insurance company would refuse to pay out to them because of this. We still had to look at getting some professional advice on traffic law, just in case it did ever go to court.
A few months later, an investigator from the insurance company came to the house and took statements from us. He was absolutely lovely and suggested to us that we were probably victims of a crash for cash claim, especially because of the area that we were driving through. It’s a pretty common trick of these fraudsters to disconnect their brake lights or wire them up so they can choose when they want them to show. Sneaky, eh?
Thankfully, a few months later we had a letter from our insurance company telling us the case was dropped and they weren’t paying out to the other drivers. A relief for us, but god knows how many other people they managed to scam who weren’t quite so lucky.