SAN DIEGO AUTO INSURANCE FRAUD ATTORNEY
Handling Allegations of Fraud After an Accident
Auto insurance fraud is any act that leads to you receiving money from an insurance company through fraudulent means. How do the authorities find out about auto insurance fraud? Typically, the case is brought to the district attorney’s attention from an insurance company’s internal investigation of a suspicious claim.
Fraud laws in California carry severe punishment, especially to those charged with a felony. Because these penalties can be life-altering, you need representation from an early stage in your case. The most important step to take is to find counsel before you speak with any investigator. Fraud cases take months or years to develop. Statements made early on can come back to have serious consequences if the case goes to a prosecutor.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON AUTO INSURANCE FRAUD SITUATIONS
There are countless factual situations that could lead to auto insurance fraud. For an individual, a case could be brought against you if you claim excessive damage from an accident. Filing a false lost-car claim or claim an accident occurred when it did not.
There are also several situations where a group of people areinvolved in the fraud.
- Two people intentionally causing a rear-end collision either between themselves or with an innocent third party.
- Medical professionals filing false injury or inflated claims.
- Attorneys forcing insurance companies to settle due to false representation of the facts of the case. These collusive acts can also lead to organized crime charges.
WHAT MUST THE PROSECUTOR PROVE
To be convicted of auto insurance fraud, the prosecutor must prove the following two facts or elements:
- You knowingly submitted a fraudulent claim to an insurance company; and
- You filed this claim with intent to defraud—for money.
WHAT IS INTENT TO DEFRAUD?
Basically, intent to defraud means making false representations or concealing the truth for financial gain.
WHAT ARE THE APPLICABLE CODE SECTIONS
The California legislature has implemented several statutes that the prosecutor can utilize in bringing an auto insurance claim. Here is a brief explanation of these sections:
- PC 548 applies when you intentionally damage your own car or someone else’s to pursue a fraudulent insurance claim.
- PC 549 applies when you make a referral to a doctor, mechanic, chiropractor, attorney, etc., knowing he/she will file a fraudulent claim.
- PC 550 this is the section utilized most frequently when the prosecutor is pursuing auto insurance fraud against an individual who either falsely claims personal injury or property loss.
- PC 551 applies when there is a fraudulent relationship/referral situation between an auto shop/mechanic and insurance company employees/adjusters, i.e., kickbacks.
- Note: California’s Business and Professions Code 810 will be utilized if a medical professional is involved with health care insurance fraud claims.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES?
Because a fraud case is very fact sensitive and typically based on circumstantial evidence it is difficult to establish intent to defraud. Maybe you did not mean to misrepresent your situation or you simply made a mistake? Another common assertion is that there is not sufficient evidence. There must be concrete evidence.
PENALTIES & PUNISHMENT FOR AUTO INSURANCE FRAUD
In California, an auto insurance fraud charge is considered a “wobbler” (either a misdemeanor or a felony). The prosecutor will decide how to proceed based upon the facts and circumstances of your case.
Depending upon what you are convicted of, you could face informal or formal probation, jail or prison time of 6 months to 5 years, and also significant fines ranging from $1,000 to $50,000. Additionally, your employment and professional licensing options can be impacted.
Note: If you are able to make restitution (pay back what you fraudulently obtained), then the prosecutor may seek a reduction in charges or suggest a more lenient sentence.
Because insurance fraud can seriously impact your life working with a criminal defense attorney is essential. We will provide a free and confidential consultation to discuss your options and determine the best approach to your situation.
Our San Diego criminal defense attorneys have helped hundreds of individuals facing the most difficult time in their life, so contact us today.
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