I just read a disturbing article in the New York Times about a large-scale personal injury insurance scam in New York City. It works like this: A gang of fraudsters lines up “scouts” to go into poor neighborhoods in search of people willing to “fake” accidents and injuries in exchange for money. The “victims” are then coached on how to fake both the accidents and the injuries. Suitably trained, they then “fall” in potholes, deliberately trip outside of restaurants or other businesses, or crash cars. The fake accident victims then visit doctors whose pockets are also being lined with the fraud ring’s money. The dishonest doctors then “treat” the “patients” for broken bones or internal injuries that do not exist, and of course keep copious records of all the “treatment” they provide. The doctors even go so far as performing unnecessary medical procedures to bump up the settlement value of the injury.
The five men who orchestrated this particular scam have now been indicted. The indictment alleges that the scam lasted for five years and cost insurance carriers about $30 million.
This is the kind of dishonesty that gives New York personal injury lawyers, and personal injury victims, a bad name. And this is the kind of news article that jury members I empanel will have in mind when I am presenting a legitimate personal injury case to them for a seriously and legitimately injured victim. Unfortunately, juries have to wonder whether my client, and perhaps even I, am trying to pull the wool over their eyes. And a lot of it is the fault of scammers like these guys.
Here’s the good news, though: Personal injury accident fraud does not happen where I practice law. I have been practicing New York personal injury law in Upstate New York, mostly in the Syracuse and Rochester areas, for more than two decades. I have never seen or even heard of a coordinated insurance fraud scam up here. I really don’t think it happens except in very big cities. Sure, even up here, once in a while, you will get an individual who fakes an injury, or exaggerates it, for profit. But I have never heard of, or seen, an accident faked. And never as part of a coordinated gang-style scam system.
Here’s some more good news: My clients don’t exaggerate or fake. If I suspect they are faking or exaggerating, I quickly let them go. In fact, I sent a client packing just recently because I began to distrust his lost wage claim. I felt he was either working under the table or able to work but deliberately claiming he could not. This does happen once in a while, but rarely. The vast majority of my New York personal injury victims in my neck of the woods are truly injured because of someone else’s negligence. They don’t have to “fake” injuries because they are real. Most of them want nothing more than to get back to work and heal up. The money they may get from the personal injury case is something they want only to compensate them for what they have lost. It is not a get-rich quick scheme up here.
Maybe the reason this kind of fraud exists in New York City and not up here is because of the difference in verdict amounts. Upstate juries usually render relatively low verdicts compared to the sometimes astronomically high verdicts that downstate juries give out. Another reason for the difference might be the doctors. Up here, doctors have plenty of legitimate work. So none of them have to resort to treating fake injuries to make a living. Apparently in New York City there are too many doctors. Some of them, short on patients, get tempted to supplement their income through dishonest means.
Here at Michaels & Smolak, we represent only legitimately injured clients. So if you have found our webpage and think you can use us to help you make a quick buck by scamming the system, go somewhere else. We don’t want your business. Fortunately, our topnotch reputation as a premier upstate New York personal injury law firm brings us plenty of legitimate, honest injury victims we can help. If that describes you, welcome! We guarantee we will do everything in our power to get you as much money as we can to compensate you for your legitimate injuries.