This is an interesting area of the law and it’s usually where insurance companies feel like they are going to have to pay out money or they’ve already paid out money on some auto insurance claim that they don’t think is either fair or they think the person is attempting to pull a fast one on them and get money for something that’s not a legitimate accident or not a legitimate claim.
Intentionally Damaging a Vehicle
The best way to lay this out is to give examples. I’ve had a client intentionally cause somebody to either destroy their vehicle by way of a fire or steal it and destroy it so that they could collect the insurance money on it. See California Penal Code 548 – Damaging or Abandoning a Vehicle and CALCRIM 2004 Jury Instructions – Destruction of Insured Property.
Where they usually get into problems is when they give an account of what happened and the insurance company is able to confirm that part of their account is simply not true.
If it’s a serious enough part of the account, that’s when they sent it to their insurance fraud investigators and they’re going to take statements and investigate. A lot of these guys are former police officers, so they know how to investigate insurance fraud claims.
The umbrella for an insurance fraud claim is pretty big, so a lot of people are being investigated and charged all of the time. I’ve handled hundreds of these cases over the last 25 years.
Really what it boils down to is, the insurance company is always looking for a way to avoid paying money. So, one way to avoid it is to claim that there’s some sort of fraud going on, investigate it and then if they can prove the person is trying to cheat them basically, then they can avoid having to pay out the claim.
Statement Under Penalty of Perjury
A lot of times what they’ll also do is take a statement from a person under penalty of perjury. They’ll record the statement, and then if they can find that any part of the statement is not true, now they have a pretty good argument and angle to up-end the credibility of the person giving the statement.
Now they’ll either turn it over to the authorities or they’ll refuse to pay the claim or both. Then it will be the responsibility of the person to try to prove that their claim is not fraudulent.
These are difficult cases because they’ll get the prosecutors involved and the prosecutors take over and now you can’t really make any statements. You have to do everything through your attorney otherwise you might incriminate yourself related to the subject insurance fraud case.
As soon as you find out that you’re being investigated for some sort of insurance fraud, you want to get your attorney involved immediately, because sometimes there’s precautionary moves we can take to try to either avoid you getting in further to the fraudulent claim.
We might even avoid a fraudulent claim altogether if we can make some moves or stop you from doing something that might put you in further jeopardy.
So, the umbrella of insurance fraud is huge and there’s all sorts of different areas that I’ve represented clients on, but to boil it down to a nutshell, anytime an insurance company is having to pay out money for something, they have multiple ways to try to figure out how to get out of it.
Either they try to low-ball you on the claim or they try to claim that you’re committing some sort of insurance fraud.
Retain Defense Lawyer to Negotiate With Prosecutor
Obviously, you’re going to need to protect yourself; defend yourself, especially if they get the police involved because the police have a lot more authority and power than they do.
Also, certainly the prosecutors in the criminal case have the most power of anybody, so you want to make sure that you have somebody to match them and challenge them if you’re charged with any type of insurance fraud.
Whether it has to do with a vehicle or any other type of insurance claim — something that you’re insured for, because with an insurance company being motivated by money, they’re not likely to be very fair and equitable when it comes to dispensing the money.
So, you need somebody to challenge them and to defend you all the way, and if you did commit some sort of insurance fraud you’re going to need an attorney to do damage control with you. Not just with the criminal prosecutors, but likely with the insurance company as well.
Some of the possible penalties for insurance fraud could include a felony on your record and up to three years in prison, and you obviously have to pay back any money that the insurance company is out of pocket.
Categorised in: Criminal Defense