ICBC steps up fight against auto insurance fraud in 2017

ICBC steps up fight against auto insurance fraud in 2017

ICBC continues to fight insurance fraud in 2017, with a new education campaign to support its increased fraud prevention efforts.

Following December’s news that ICBC had generated its first results from a new high-tech tool which will help identify and target fraudulent claims, the corporation is now reminding British Columbians, through a new advertising campaign, of the serious nature and cost of insurance fraud.

“The goal of this information campaign is to show British Columbians that exaggerating an injury for financial gain is wrong,” said Chris Fairbridge, ICBC’s manager of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).

Most claims are honest, but insurance industry studies estimate that fraudulent or exaggerated claims make up about 10 to 20 per cent of all claims costs. Applying those estimates means that fraud and exaggeration is costing ICBC customers up to $600 million a year, or more than $100 a year for each ICBC policyholder.

The 2016 public information campaign sparked a 70 per cent increase to ICBC’s fraud tips line in the first quarter. Overall last year, the fraud tips line received nearly 1,900 calls – a 66 per cent increase over the volume of tips in 2015.

“We want the public to better understand the role they can play so we can work together to best prevent fraud,” added Fairbridge. “Tips help us take action by investigating suspicious situations in order to protect the majority of our customers who file honest claims.”

In 2016, ICBC’s Special Investigation Unit completed close to 10,000 investigations.

ICBC expects fraud detection and enforcement activities to reduce ICBC’s basic insurance claims costs by $21 million for policies written over the next year. And ICBC estimates all of these activities, including use of the analytics tool, will save up to $44 million a year by 2019.

The most common types of insurance fraud include false claims, exaggerated claims and organized fraud. An example of a false claim is when an owner fabricates a story about their vehicle being stolen when it was actually disposed of by the owner. Exaggerated claims are when a driver or passenger embellishes a claim by overstating their injuries or the damage to their vehicle. And organized fraud is a planned event such as a staged collision.

British Columbians can further protect their wallets by reporting suspicious activities related to insurance fraud to ICBC’s toll-free tips line at 1-800-661-6844. Tip information is confidential and callers can remain anonymous. For more information, visit icbc.com/fraud.

Here are some of ICBC’s 2016 fraud files:

Exaggerating the impact

A woman involved in a minor rear-end crash in 2013, which caused approximately $1,100 worth of damage to her vehicle, claimed more than $200,000 in pain and suffering and other damages. The B.C. Supreme Court judge had serious concerns about the woman’s credibility and found she “attempted to mislead the court and exaggerated the impact of the accident on her physical condition and her ability to work.” In the end, the judge awarded less than 20 per cent of what she was demanding in her claim. Because the judge’s award was less than what ICBC had offered before she took the case to trial, she is also responsible to pay two times ICBC’s legal costs.

Fraud – a serious offence in the courts

A Provincial Court case concluded in November 2016, where four people involved in a 2013 crash were all convicted for making false injury claims with ICBC. The fines ranged from $2,000 to $3,000 and three of the four were sentenced to one day in jail. The fourth received a sentence of three days in jail.

In this case, injury claims were presented to ICBC, even though two of the occupants who said they were in the vehicle involved in the crash, weren’t actually in the vehicle. In fact, only two people were in the vehicle along with two dogs.

Cell phone reports were used in this case indicating that those making claims were talking to each other at the time of the crash.

In his reasons for sentence, B.C. Provincial Court Judge, John Lenaghan said the case was “in many ways, a very serious offence because it is a fraud perpetrated upon everyone in the province who relies upon the Insurance Corporation.”

Who smashed up the BMW?

A 21-year-old man reported his mother’s 2010 BMW 750 had been vandalized while it was in his possession and parked at his relatives’ house in New Westminster when visiting them on the evening of October 31, 2016.

The man claimed he found the vehicle with smashed windows, dented exterior body panels, broken head and tail lights, slashed leather seats and a smashed dashboard and navigation system. The $35,000 car was a write off.

However, no one inside the house had heard any noise outside where the vehicle was parked during the two-hour period that the vandalism was said to have happened. And none of the four other expensive cars in the driveway had been damaged. And ICBC didn’t have any other reports of vandalism in the area.

The vehicle owner claimed that the BMW was in excellent working condition, but an inspection at ICBC’s Centralized Estimating Facility showed an engine-warning light on the dash. The mechanical inspection later revealed the car suffered from disintegrating drive clutches in the transmission, excessive oil consumption, excessive engine and transmission oil leaks and two engine fault codes that had set off the engine warning light. Follow-up discussions with the owner resulted in information that didn’t match the mechanical inspection of the car.

Due to false statements about the condition of the car, ICBC denied the claim.

Engaged couple engage in fake pedestrian crash

While out for a leisurely walk in East Vancouver, a man said a car struck him. He claimed a variety of injuries but didn’t have any witnesses and emergency vehicles didn’t attend the scene. The man was anxious to settle his injury claim and became angry when the ICBC adjuster said ICBC needed to talk to the insured motorist. Suddenly, a woman called to report a claim and admitted to striking the pedestrian. She didn’t have the name and said she didn’t know who he was.

The man tried again to settle his claim quickly, a further review showed the man had filed three previous pedestrian knockdown claims. Again, he said he didn’t know the driver. But when the Special Investigation Unit took on the case, investigators discovered Facebook posts that revealed the two were in fact a happy couple and were engaged to be married just two weeks before the incident. The man has abandoned his claim.

Trio of staged crashes

Three crashes in Surrey close to a local auto body repair shop raised the suspicions of ICBC investigators.

In a complex web of relationships and links involving six people, it turns out one of the claimants responsible for the first crash and claiming to be injured in the third crash works at the repair shop with another man who was claiming to be injured in both the second and third crashes.

A woman claiming to be hurt in the first crash and the man responsible for crash number two were dating each other. And another woman claiming to be hurt in the first crash called another man, claiming to be injured in the second and third crashes, to drive her home after crash number one.

After an ICBC investigation, it turns out the crashes were all staged and deliberate resulting in $58,000 in vehicle damage claims and injury benefits. ICBC has denied all of the injury claims and is now pursuing legal action to recover the costs of the damage and injury benefits paid.

Media contact

Sam Corea
604-982-2480

Time to take action on road safety in your workplace  #RSAWWeek

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Hey! Don’t Plow Me In!

No one likes to spend significant effort to clean the snow off of their driveway only to have the plow come by and fill in the highway end all over again. Most of us grumble and get to work, but an Errington man decided to stand in the way and prevent the grader from doing this with his driveway. In what almost became more ways than one, he didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Your kingdom ends at the property line and property for the highway begins on the other side. In order to construct your driveway access you must have permission from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure if you live outside of a municipality. One term of that permission is that your are responsible for all maintenance including clearing snow from highway plowing operations at the access entrance.

Driveway construction and maintenance within a municipality is governed through bylaws. Most bylaws are on line these days, but information about your responsibilities may be obtained by contacting your local bylaw department. Remember that bylaws may not be uniform thoughout the province.

Highway maintenance outside municipal boundaries is conducted by private contractors. The specifications that they must follow include a chapter on highway snow removal. Roadside snow and ice control are dealt with in 3-320, but driveways are not specified as part of the services required.

One might be tempted to push all that snow right back out onto the highway where it came from. While it might be satisfying, there are two reasons that this would be a poor decision to make. The Transportation Act forbids causing anything to be deposited on public highways without authorization in section 62(1). If a collision resulted from the snow you moved onto the traveled lanes, you could be liable to civil action for damages. That could be very costly to you and the victims.

The Transportation Act also forbids obstructing or preventing another person from engaging in any activity if that activity is authorized by the Act. Highway maintenance is an activity within the many powers granted to the Minister. The maintenance contractor would be operating under the authority of the Minister.

Considering that we want speedy snow clearing from highways and not to have to spend more than we already do on taxes for road maintenance perhaps the status quo is acceptable, even if it means that we have to shovel again after the plows pass by.

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.

Tesla, BMW electrics fall short of highest crash test rating

Two luxury electric vehicles – the Tesla Model S and the BMW i3 – fell short of getting the highest safety ratings in new crash tests by the insurance industry.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested 2017 models of both vehicles. Neither earned the institute’s “Top Safety Pick” award, which is given to vehicles that get the highest rating in five different crash tests and offer a crash-prevention system with automatic braking. To get a highest  “Top Safety Pick-Plus” designation, vehicles must meet all of those criteria and have good headlights.

In the 2017 model year, 38 vehicles have won the “Top Safety Pick-Plus” designation, including two plug-in hybrids: the Toyota Prius Prime and the Chevrolet Volt. But no all-electric vehicles are on the list. The institute hasn’t yet tested the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, which went on sale at the end of 2016.

Tesla’s Model S, an all-electric luxury sedan that starts at $72,500, earned good ratings in four of the institute’s five tests, including a side impact test and a head restraint test. But it earned a lower rating in a small overlap frontal crash test, which replicates what happens when the front corner of the car collides with a tree or telephone poll at 40 miles per hour. The Tesla’s safety belt allowed the crash dummy to move too far forward and it hit its head on the steering wheel.

The institute said Tesla made a production change this month to address the problem, so the car will be tested again. The Model S has earned the highest ratings on U.S. government crash tests, but IIHS performs different tests.

Tesla also earned a “poor” rating for its headlights. And a high-performance version of the Model S, the P100D, got a lower ranking on the roof strength test because its larger battery makes it much heavier, so the roof might not hold up as well in a rollover crash. The government hasn’t performed a roof-strength test on the P100D.

The BMW i3, a small electric car that starts at $42,400, also earned good ratings in four out of five tests. It fell short in the head restraint test, which measures how well the car protects against neck injuries in a rear crash. The i3 earned the second-highest rating of “acceptable” for its headlights.

The government hasn’t yet reported crash-test results for the i3.

 

Mother of four emphasizes importance of car seat safety

SGI News release: Jamie Killoran of North Battleford is no stranger to SGI’s car seat clinics, having four children aged three to seven years.

Killoran first took her oldest child, Drake, to a clinic when he was an infant seven years ago and has made a point of visiting the clinics as her family has expanded and grown into the next stage of seats. Dylin, age five, and three-year-old twins Jessie and Moira-Jean have also benefited from the clinics as the certified car seat technicians have taught the Killorans how to install each seat correctly and keep each child safely secured.

Most fatal collisions where occupants are unbuckled are single vehicle collisions, most commonly rollovers — passengers are violently tossed around like rag dolls and are often ejected through a window. Results range from severe lacerations to paralysis and even death. The chance of this happening could be reduced by as much as 50 per cent by properly buckling up.

In 2015, improper or non-seatbelt/car seat use contributed to a total of 17 deaths and 194 injuries in the province. Seventy-three of those injured were children under the age of seven. That’s why SGI and law enforcement around the province will be focusing on occupant safety this month.

Police will be watching for drivers and passengers who are not appropriately and safely buckled up. This means people wearing seatbelts incorrectly or not at all, or children that aren’t restrained or are in the incorrect type of child safety seat for their age and size.

It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure all passengers under the age of 16 are properly restrained, so clinics are open to anyone. “My parents drive the kids quite often, so with moving the seats back-and-forth between vehicles, we wanted them to know how to install the seats and buckle up the kids correctly. They attended a clinic and were quite surprised by how much has changed since I was a kid!” said Killoran. “They’re glad they went. Installing a car seat can be complicated, especially if you don’t do it a lot. Now we all have the peace of mind that they’re safe.”

There are four car seat stages for children: rear-facing, forward-facing, booster seat, and finally, a standard seatbelt. This can be confusing for parents and caregivers, so SGI offers free car seat clinics to teach parents how to install their children’s car seats correctly and to ensure children are in the appropriate seat for their size and age. Clinics are offered from May to September each year, or you can book a free appointment with a certified car seat technician year-round.

Killoran encourages all parents and caregivers to attend a free clinic, “even if you think they’re fine, just go and learn from the experts to ensure your child gets the right fit — it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

SGI recommends these tips to help keep all vehicle occupants safe:

  • Buckle up — every person, every time you get into a vehicle.
  • Ensure harness straps lay flat (untwisted) and only one of your fingers fit between the straps and child.
  • Keep your child in their current seat until they reach the maximum weight according to the seat’s manufacturer. Don’t rush into the next size.
  • Put blankets and heavy coats over the straps — too much bulk under the straps means the seat can’t work like its designed and crash-tested to work.
  • Make sure the seatbelt fits securely across the middle of the shoulder and across the hips.
  • Get the right fit. Visit an SGI car seat clinic or book an appointment with a car seat technician in your community.

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