THE STORY SO FAR...Mark is driving along Steeles Avenue in Brampton with a clear road ahead of him. Suddenly a car pulls in front of him and slams on the brakes. Mark rear-ends the car and five people get out, all injured. Mark calls Bud for...
THE STORY SO FAR… Mark is driving along Steeles Avenue in Brampton with a clear road ahead of him. Suddenly a car pulls in front of him and slams on the brakes. Mark rear-ends the car and five people get out, all injured. Mark calls Bud for some advice about what to do. Mark video records the damage to both vehicles and the injuries to the people involved. A bystander suggests a mechanic to Mark, but Mark has his own, thanks. The police and ambulance arrive, taking two passengers to hospital and issuing Mark a ticket…
• Several days later, after Mark was finished with the job moving the warehouse from Toronto to Brampton, he was contacted by a claims adjuster from his insurance company.
When he realized who was calling, and that he’d be on the phone for a while, Mark pulled over and shut down his truck, giving all of his time and attention to the man on the phone.
“What do you need to contact me for?” he asked. “I didn’t make a claim on my truck. You know as well as anyone that the deductible’s too high to make it worth my while. It’s cheaper for me if I get it fixed myself.”
“I can appreciate that, Mr. Dalton, but I’d like to talk to you about the accident in general. You know…what happened. Your side. Their side. The damage and injuries to everyone involved.”
“I wasn’t injured.”
“We’re all grateful for that, believe me. But I understand that the people in the car suffered some serious injuries.”
“Serious injuries?” Mark said. “Everyone got out of the car on their own and were walking around right after the accident.”
“Well, that’s not what their doctors are saying. A couple of people suffered broken bones, as well as significant back and neck injuries.”
“Nobody broke a bone.”
“Even though you’re not a doctor, I appreciate your opinion and I’m making a note of it. In fact, it supports our belief that the accident might have been staged.”
“Might have been staged?” Mark said, trying not to sound sarcastic but failing miserably. “No kidding.”
“Yes. But in order to be certain we need proof, and that’s where we were hoping you might be able to help.”
“Well, I might be in luck.”
“After the accident I used my cell phone to take video of the driver and four passengers.”
“Yeah, there was a driver and four people in the car. Two up front and three in the back. Five altogether.”
“That’s a great start, Mr. Dalton, considering we have claims from the driver and five passengers.” The tone of the man’s voice seemed to brighten. “I’m even more anxious now to see this video of yours.”
“I’ll e-mail it to you,” Mark said.
“That would be great. It would really be a big help.”
“So, I get the feeling what happened to me is pretty common?”
“Very much so. In fact the type of accident you were involved in is so common it has its own name – the ‘Swoop and Squat.’ That’s where a car will pull out in front of an unsuspecting driver and suddenly slam on its brakes…usually for no reason, but sometimes because a decoy car that’s in on the scam pulls out in front of it, forcing it to make an abrupt stop.”
“There was nothing in front of that car but clear road.”
“Yeah, they’re getting a lot more brazen, paying less and less attention to the details. It’s an easy one to pull off, especially when the police always issue a ticket to the person who does the rear-ending, putting them at fault. That’s one of the reasons why this kind of scam is so prevalent.”
“There are others?”
“A few. Another one is the ‘Drive Down’ where a driver will wave you ahead, then cut in front of you so that you hit their car, usually on the front fender or driver’s door.”
“Then there’s the sideswipe, where a driver will swerve into your lane on a double-lane left hand turn, then claim you drifted over into their lane.”
“They’ve thought of everything, eh?”
“Finally there’s the ‘Shady Helper’ scam where someone who’s witnessed the accident steps forward and suggests a repair shop they know of that does good work for cheap prices. Then once the car’s in the shop they gouge the insurance company for all kinds of bogus work.”
Mark thought about that. “You know,” he said, “someone did come to me right after the accident and suggest a mechanic they knew. I told him thanks, but I had my own mechanic.”
“That’s good for you. These repair shops really know how to work the system. They’ll sometimes even charge the vehicle owners money for extra repairs they say are needed but aren’t covered by a person’s insurance. It ends up costing everyone a bundle in the end.”
“This all sounds pretty organized.”
“Believe me, it ends up costing the insurance industry billions each year. But it’s not a victimless crime because the extra costs of all these settlements get passed down to the consumer who pays more for their insurance coverage.”
“The little guy always pays in the end, doesn’t he?”
“So my video will help you nail these guys?”
“Absolutely. In fact, you did just about everything you could after the accident to protect yourself…write down everyone’s information, take pictures, count the number of people involved, and note how people act before and after the police and EMS arrive.”
Mark smiled at that. Mark Dalton was nobody’s fool.
“With the video,” he continued, “at least we’ll have the proof we need to deny most of their medical claims. Hopefully, once they know we have a video of the accident scene, they’ll back off and we can close out the claim.”
He could hear the insurance man sighing over the phone.
“Unfortunately, it’s just as hard to prove there is no soft-tissue damage, as it is to prove there is. We can provide all the proof in the world, but they can still claim to have injuries. At least with the video we can dismiss the claim of the person who wasn’t at the accident outright…and that’ll make it that much harder for the rest of them to prove their case.”
“Then I’ll e-mail the video to you right away.”
“That would be terrific. Thank you so much.”
“Just do me one favour,” Mark said.
“Remember this when it comes time to raise my insurance rates.”
A slight laugh. “That’s a different department, but I’ll try and pass along the information.”
“I’d appreciate that.”
Mark hung up the phone, clenching it in his fist for several seconds. Even though he’d done all he could to protect himself, he still couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d been played…taken advantage off.
It was a strange feeling for Mark, and for a moment he wished that he had missed the brakes and plowed right through that car.
But the moment passed.
And he remembered the advice Bud had given to him just moments after the accident happened: Put it behind you, deliver your load, and get on with your life. Basically, keep on trucking.
Mark turned the ignition and Mother Load’s Cummins roared to life. Then he shifted her into first, and got back to work.
– Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Collision Course.