Texas Fraud Committee Warns of Accident ‘Runners’

April 27, 2006

You’re involved in a minor traffic accident where there was little damage to either vehicle, no one was hurt, but police were called and a traffic accident report was filled out. Much to your surprise, someone claiming to be from a victim assistance program or some type of medical facility calls you the next day saying a free doctor’s appointment awaits you just to make sure you’re okay. You’ve just become involved in a scheme to bankroll months of needless and expensive treatment.

The scheme is happening in every major city in Texas. Many accident victims receive more than a dozen calls in one day. Insurance fraud investigators say the runners or solicitors pay police departments a small sum of money for their traffic accident reports. The runners hand over the reports to telemarketers who call the victims directing them to the office of a medical provider. Frivolous medical exams and endless treatment often lead to free legal advice, all of which comes at the price of higher premiums for every Texan who has an auto insurance policy.

The Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud has zeroed in on these runners as its number one legislative priority in the next regular session of the Texas Legislature.

“Unfortunately, some lawyers and medical care providers in Texas have latched onto what they perceive as a gravy train of unknowing victims. We hope to bring this practice to a halt with legislation similar to the laws in other states that have addressed the problem,” said Mark Stolle, manager of Special Investigations for GEICO and chairman of the property and casualty subcommittee of the Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud. “It’s like any business. You always have a few bad apples and they are ruining the name and good practice ethics of others.”

Some of these runners falsely claim to be “working with” the insurance company listed on the police report and tell the accident victims that their vehicle won’t be repaired unless they report to the clinic for an examination.

Lawmakers in Florida recently passed legislation where it’s a third degree felony for a runner/solicitor to illegally obtain traffic accident reports unless they are reporters, the accident victim, law enforcement officers or investigating insurance carriers.

In Austin, Texas, about a half dozen runners stand by each day awaiting the previous day’s traffic accident reports and pay 10 cents to see one page of accidents reports and then pay $6 to purchase individual reports. Austin police say some runners pay thousands of dollars each year for these reports. Each traffic accident report contains the victim’s name, address, phone number and drivers’ license number.

“We used to call them ambulance chasers, but I guess the price of gasoline and an inexpensive police report has changed all that,” said Stolle. “What they’re doing is just as bad as the person who fakes an injury when they’ve been involved in a minor accident. Both are parasites on society.”

Source: Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud

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