Auto insurance fraud takes many forms. It could involve lying on your insurance application forms for a better rate. Or filing an insurance claim for damages you intentionally inflicted upon your car.
But of the various ways to commit auto insurance fraud, staged motor vehicle collisions are some of the most dangerous. New York is a “no-fault” auto insurance state, so insurers reimburse all insureds for damages suffered in a collision. Staged accidents abuse this system, and it’s not unusual to have an accomplice act as a “victim” or the “at-fault driver” in these schemes.
It’s against New York law to stage a motor vehicle accident to fraudulently claim on insurance. Those who violate the rules face felony criminal charges.
Criminal degrees for staged auto accidents
Per New York law, there are two degrees to the crime of fake auto accidents for insurance fraud.
Suppose a person devises or intentionally instigates a staged auto collision with the intent to commit insurance fraud. In that case, they’re guilty of staging a motor vehicle accident in the second degree, which is a Class E felony. On conviction, the person must pay as much as $5,000 in fines and serve up to four years in prison.
However, a person who creates or causes a staged auto accident wherein another suffers serious physical injury or dies can face charges for staging a motor vehicle accident in the second degree – a Class D felony. A conviction for this offense carries a maximum $5,000 fine and up to seven years in prison.
Additional penalties for insurance fraud
On top of charges for staging an accident, accused drivers may also be separately charged for insurance fraud based on the payout amount they dishonestly obtained. There are five degrees of fraud charges with the penalties increasing based on the amount defrauded.
For defrauding insurers of less than $1,000 – the lowest end of insurance fraud – accused drivers may be charged with insurance fraud in the fifth degree, a Class A misdemeanor. But if a person fraudulently obtains more than a million dollars, they can face a charge of insurance fraud in the first degree, a Class B felony. This is the highest criminal degree for the offense, and a conviction leads to as much as twice the amount the driver obtained in fines and up to 25 years in prison.
Staged auto accidents aren’t just dangerous, they’re also criminal offenses that can lead to severe penalties for anyone involved. Drivers facing charges should take their court hearing seriously because staged collisions are immediately prosecuted as felonies.