The shock of getting into a traffic accident, even a minor one,
can leave a driver feeling dazed and confused, but it pays to keep
your wits about you at all times. Steven Rutzebeck, director of
GEICO's Special Investigations Unit, explains how to foil potential
fraudsters in the moments immedately after a car crash. Having
dealt with insurance fraud throughout his career, Rutzebeck knows
exactly what to look for.
GEICO Now (GN): As you know, traffic accidents do
happen and sometimes it's tempting to give the other driver the
benefit of the doubt. But is it ever smart to wash your hands of it
and just walk away from a car crash, even a minor fender
Steven Rutzebeck (SR): Not a good idea. At the
scene of an accident, you need to get a clear picture of what
actually happened. Use your cellphone to take photos of the damaged
vehicles, license plates, the people involved, even their driver's
license, if possible. A police officer also serves as an impartial
observer of the condition of the vehicles and their occupants, so
you have nothing to worry about if a problem presents itself later
(if the other party changes their story, for example, and all of a
sudden it becomes your fault).
GN: In movies and on TV, we often see depictions
of a fraudulent claimant hobbling into court on crutches or in a
wheelchair, wearing bandages and a neck brace. But does that stuff
SR: You'd be surprised by what some people try to
get away with. But if there's very minor damage to the vehicle and
all the occupants appear to be injured, and to an extent that
doesn't correlate to the amount of trauma created by the impact,
you can be sure the injuries either do not exist or are being
GN: Why do they go to such ridiculous
SR: These farces are often financially motivated.
If someone's bent on staging an accident and wants to incorporate
an innocent party, they usually look for high-end vehicles; they
also target elderly drivers. But with a typical fender bender, some
people see an opportunity to make money out of it.
GN: In a courtroom, the judge considers many
factors to determine who's telling the truth. With insurance fraud,
how can you tell when someone's fibbing?
SR: As we like to say, "The truth never changes."
If you're being truthful, minor aspects of the story might change
slightly over time, but the basic concept will always stay the same
because it's true and you remember it. When people are telling
falsehoods, it's hard for them to keep all the particulars in line
and remember what they've said.
If you have any questions about your GEICO auto insurance, please
call 1-800-841-0728 or visit geico.com. Go straight
to the Claims
Center if you've been in a fender bender or just want to know
more about the claims process.