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.
Mark gets a call from an insurance adjuster asking for help in dealing with the claim from his accident. Mark tells the man he’s got video and the adjuster is thrilled. It’ll go a long way in helping them deny many of the outrageous claims being made…
• Months passed and Mark had been across the country dozens of times. He’d been to Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax and every other city of any size in the country and not once had he hit another car. Not only that, he hadn’t hit anything since his collision in Brampton – not a parked car, not a fencepost, not another trailer. In fact, he’d been driving so well, he’d all but forgotten his rear-ender until he got a call from the police.
“Hello, Mr. Dalton?” the voice on the phone said.
“Do I owe you money?”
“Then, yeah, I’m Mark Dalton.”
“This is Constable Sutari of the Peel Regional Police Frauds Bureau. I was informed by officers in our Traffic Bureau that you were involved in a staged auto accident several months ago.”
“We’re in the process of a large special project whose aim is to cut down of the number of fake accidents and insurance frauds going on in our region.”
“Anything I can do to help,” Mark offered.
“I understand that you took some video after your accident. We’d like to have a copy of that if we could.”
“We’d also like you to come in and give a statement regarding what was said to you just after the accident occurred regarding police involvement at the scene.”
“They didn’t want any police involved.”
“That’s what we need to have documented.”
“Do you think you can stop this sort of thing?” Mark asked.
“Probably not completely, but right now we’re not just going after the people who stage the accidents, but everyone who profits from them, like physiotherapy clinics, massage therapists, medical clinics, even people who sell orthotics.”
“Orthotics? Aren’t those special kinds of shoes?”
“Yeah, we had an accident a while back where orthotics were prescribed for an eight-month-old baby.”
“What does a baby need orthotics for?”
“I had no idea it was so widespread.”
“That’s why were working so hard to shut it all down.”
“I’ll do what I can to help.”
• In the mail one day, Mark found a bill for the repairs to Mother Load. Although the damage to his front bumper was minor and required minimal repairs – some straightening, a bit of body work and rechroming – the bill still came to over $2,000. He wasn’t happy about having to pay it since the accident hadn’t been his fault and that was $2,000 he could have spent on something else – but he was glad it wasn’t more. Judging by the claims made against the insurance company, and how pervasive this kind of insurance fraud was, Mark could have easily been on the hook for more.
• The day of Mark’s court date came in June. It was actually the second time he’d been to the courthouse, having already taken a half-day off work to attend in person and arrange a trial date.
If it had simply been a matter of a fine, Mark might have considered paying it. But a charge of “following too closely” carried with it demerit points and those were to be avoided at all costs.
At the moment, Mark’s driving record was clean, and while points were eventually taken off your record after several years of safe driving, you could never be sure when something bad might happen. No matter how carefully you drove, accidents happened and Mark could find himself in another one. His insurance rates could rise, his licence could be suspended, or he could lose his licence altogether. Obviously that was unacceptable for a professional full-time driver like Mark. And so, here he was, taking more time off work to make sure he wouldn’t get dinged for something that wasn’t his fault.
After finding the courtroom where his matter would be spoken to, Mark took a seat in the lobby and took a look around. In the months since the accident Mark had forgotten what the officer looked like. There were plenty of police milling about and they all wore the same uniform making it impossible to tell them apart. So when his matter was called before the Justice of the Peace, Mark stood before the court, stated his name, and waited anxiously for a police officer to step up from the body of the court. But no one came forward.
“Your Worship,” said the prosecutor. “The officer doesn’t seem to be in attendance and as a result we have no reasonable prospect of conviction. We ask that the charge be withdrawn.”
Mark breathed a sigh of relief and exited the courtroom. But while Mark was relieved to know that his driving record was intact, he slowly grew angry over the mere fact that he had to go through all this trouble because of someone else’s actions. “I hope they nail those bastards to the wall,” he said under his breath as he left the courthouse.
• Several more months down the road, Mark picked up his mail and noticed an envelope from his insurance company in among the letters. Mark wondered if it was a personal letter to him thanking him for all his help, or a renewal notice outlining his insurance costs for the next year. He opened it up, unfolded the letter and discovered it was a little bit of both.
Dear Mr. Dalton,
First of all, allow me to thank you for the help you provided in regards to your recent accident. Most of the claims were denied and criminal charges were advanced against those who tried to make false claims against our company. Because of your assistance, we have decided not to raise your insurance premiums as a result of the accident. If more of our clients were as diligent as yourself, fraudulent accident claims might not be so pervasive in our industry. However, despite your efforts and ours, the problem still exists, and for that reason we have no other choice but to raise insurance premiums by 3% across the board for customers with mailing addresses where the frauds are most prevalent.
Mark folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. ‘Insurance fraud,’ Mark thought. ‘No one gets hurt.’ Except…he had to take a day-and-a-half off work for court appearances, spend $2,000 for a repair he shouldn’t have had to make, not to mention all the stress and aggravation of being in a collision. And despite all that, his and everyone else’s insurance costs still go up to cover the cost of the frauds. ‘Maybe,’ he thought, ‘I should be renting a PO Box in Saskatchewan instead.’