New Texas Crash Reports Sans Victims’ Numbers Aim to Curb Scams

April 4, 2008

Police officers in Texas will have one less blank to fill out while investigating traffic accidents this year, the Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud reported. The form will no longer contain phone numbers for crash victims.

The change was made in an effort to end telephone harassment by telemarketers who urge accident victims to begin “free” treatment with the chiropractic clinic that is paying the telemarketer.
Oftentimes, crash victims will receive up to a dozen telemarketer phone calls in one day urging them to seek help.

The minor change on the form was an agreement reached between the Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud and officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Transportation. The new crash form appears online beginning April 7 for all police departments to use.

Telemarketers line up at the Central Records division of every major city in Texas each morning to purchase the previous day’s crash reports. Current law says the telemarketers must know the date of the accident and the specific address of the accident to obtain the crash reports. Telemarketers purchase each police department’s dispatch logs that have this information and then turn around and purchase the crash reports.

Without phone numbers telemarketers will have to submit to using phone books or the Internet to look up the numbers for each crash victim. They won’t have access to unlisted numbers, cell phones and business numbers which could cut down the number of unsolicited calls by half.

Texas Department of Transportation officials say a majority of police departments in Texas should be using the new crash report form by June 1.

Legislation was introduced last year to place a 30-day hold on all crash reports except to crash victims, law enforcement officers, insurers and the news media. The bill failed to pass in the final days of the session. The Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud is urging lawmakers to support such legislation in the future.

The Texas Chiropractic Association and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association actively supported the proposed legislation as well as another bill to make telemarketing a crime, but that bill also failed. Allen Rogers, a board member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, said his association has been trying to get the law changed for many years.

“Personal injury lawyers in Texas want to see the telemarketing of injury victims stopped,” Rogers said. “It is a small percentage of chiropractors and lawyers who engage in this conduct, but even one instance is too many.”

Greg Nelson, DC, president-elect of the Texas Chiropractic Association, echoed the comments of Rogers saying his association has also long supported legislation aimed at curbing the practice of solicitation of accident victims.

“The Texas Chiropractic Association believes the combination of restricted access to reports and a moratorium on contacting victims would be a step in the right direction to protecting the privacy rights of Texans,” Nelson said. ”

“We’ve had telemarketers tell crash victims that they represent their insurance company and if they don’t come in for treatment, they won’t be able to settle their claim,” said Gary Evans with the National Insurance Crime Bureau in San Antonio. “This is a huge multi-million dollar scam operation and it eventually is paid out of the pockets of every auto insurance policyholder in Texas.”

The solicitation of business using information contained in a dispatch log is a Class B misdemeanor under the Texas Penal Code. Unfortunately, prosecutors in major cities can’t justify the resources to go after these telemarketers.

“We will continue to show lawmakers and prosecutors the economic impact of these telemarketers so stronger laws can put a stop to this unwanted and very costly solicitation,” said Mark Hanna, spokesman for the Texas Committee on Insurance Fraud. ‘

Source: Texas Committe on Insurance Fraud

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