You may face auto insurance fraud charges if you commit any form of fraud that involves car insurance. You may commit auto insurance fraud if you intentionally abandon, damage, or hide your vehicle on purpose to collect car insurance proceeds for the vehicle. You might also face charges if you submit a false insurance claim purporting to have suffered a loss due to damage or theft of your vehicle. Auto insurance fraud is a criminal offense according to California law, and the associated consequences are serious. If you are facing charges for auto insurance fraud, contact the Orange County Criminal Lawyer for legal representation.
Understanding Auto Insurance Fraud
According to California law, you might face auto insurance fraud charges if you present two or more auto insurance claims for the same loss with the intent to defraud the insurance company. You might also face charges if you participate or cause an accident on purpose with the intent of fraudulently collecting proceeds for auto insurance. If you prepare and present a false written or oral statement as part of an insurance claim, you might face fraud charges. You might also face fraud charges if you falsely claim to be living in California during an application for auto insurance.
Employees or business owners may face auto insurance charges if they refer, solicit, or accept any form of business from a person, yet they are aware that the person intends to commit an auto insurance fraud. If you own or work in an auto repair shop, you may commit auto insurance fraud if you give commissions or kickbacks to insurance adjusters and agents to persuade them to refer policyholders to your shop.
Major Forms of Auto Insurance Fraud in California
There are many definitions of auto insurance fraud, according to California law. The definition of insurance fraud will depend on the form of fraud you commit. Some of the common forms of auto insurance fraud, according to California law include:
Vehicle Damage or Abandonment
The California PC 548 outlines the crime of abandoning or damaging a vehicle with the intent of filing an insurance claim. You may commit fraud by injuring, destroying, hiding, abandoning, or disposing of a vehicle, which you have insured against loss or damage. Your motive is important, and you should have the intent to prejudice or defraud the insurance company. Intent to defraud means that you intend to deceive the insurance company, and this may lead to loss of the insurance company's money.
It is important to note that you might face auto insurance fraud charges even if the insurance company does not lose money due to your actions. As long as the prosecutor proves that you had intentionally destroyed or disposed of your vehicle intending to deceive the insurance company, you might face charges under Penal Code 548PC. You might also face charges in a case where the car involved is not yours as long as you have the intention to defraud the insurance company.
Making a Fraudulent Auto Insurance Claim
You may face auto insurance fraud charges under California PC 550 if you present a fraudulent or false insurance claim asserting the theft, damage, destruction, or conversion of your vehicle. You may falsely claim payment for the loss of your vehicle due to theft, damage, conversion, or destruction of the entire vehicle or vehicle parts and components.
For you to face auto insurance fraud charges, it must be evident that you were aware that the claim you made was fraudulent. It must also be evident that at the time when you submitted the claim, you intended to defraud the insurance company. For you to face charges, someone doesn't need to suffer a financial loss due to your actions.
To face charges under PC 550, you must have known that the claim was fraudulent or false. If you were not aware that you were presenting a false or fraudulent claim, you may not face charges according to California law.
Submitting Multiple Insurance Claims
You may be guilty of committing an auto insurance fraud if you submit several insurance claims for the same loss as outlined under California PC 550 (a) (4). You may get charged for this offense if you submit two or more claims for the same loss. You may submit multiple insurance claims to one insurance company or several insurance companies. You must have been aware of your actions to face charges. This implies that you must have submitted the multiple claims knowingly. Finally, for you to face fraud charges, you must-have has an intent to defraud the insurance company.
Intentionally Causing an Accident
You may commit auto insurance fraud by intentionally participating or causing a vehicle accident. At the time of causing the accident, you must have been aware that the purpose of causing the accident is making a false or fraudulent insurance claim. You must have intended to defraud the insurance company by knowingly causing an accident.
At times, you may be guilty of committing insurance fraud by causing an accident, even if you did not directly cause the accident. For instance, you may be guilty as long as the accident is a natural and probable consequence of your actions. You may be guilty if it is evident that if it was not for your actions, the accident would not have occurred.
You may organize with a friend to have him/her crash your vehicle. You then proceed to make a false insurance claim intending to buy a new car using the insurance proceeds. In this case, both you and your friend may get charges for causing an accident.
Making a False Statement
You may be guilty of committing an auto insurance fraud according to California law if you make a false statement as outlined under California PC 550 (b) (1)-(4). You may make a false statement if you present an oral or written statement in opposition or as part of an auto insurance claim payment or any other benefit. While making the statement, you must have been aware that the statement contained misleading or false information that could distort material fact.
You do not have to present the false statement to the insurance company to face fraud charges. You might face charges if you prepare or make an oral or written statement as part or as an opposition to an auto insurance claim or payment of a benefit. If you make a false statement outlining that you reside in California and you reside somewhere else, you may get charged for making a false statement.
Consequences for Auto Insurance Fraud
The applicable consequences for committing an auto insurance fraud in California will depend on the type of fraud that you commit. Different forms of auto insurance fraud will attract different penalties:
Destroying, Damaging, Abandoning, or Hiding a Vehicle
If you abandon, hide, damage, or destroy your insured vehicle intending to defraud an insurance company, you will face felony charges according to California law. The potential consequences for the felony offense include serving formal felony probation. While serving probation, you would have to adhere to certain conditions of probation. The requirements of probation may include performing community service and meeting with the probation officer regularly.
You might also serve imprisonment in a California state prison. The period of imprisonment may vary from two years, three years, or five years. The court may also order you to pay a fine not exceeding $50,000. If you have a previous felony conviction for an offense under PC 548 or PC 550, you may get an additional and consecutive two-year sentence enhancement for each prior felony conviction.
Filing Multiple and Fraudulent Insurance Claims
The consequences for filing fraudulent or false auto insurance claims under PC 550 (a) (4) and filing multiple claims under PC 550 (a) (2) are similar. The consequences for the offense include serving a formal or felony probation. You might also serve an imprisonment of two years, three years, or five years in a California state prison. You might also have to pay a hefty fine of up to $50,000. The court may also require you to pay a fine of double the amount of auto insurance fraud, whichever is greater. For every prior felony conviction for an auto insurance fraud, you might face a 2-year sentence enhancement. If you have a prior felony conviction for committing an auto insurance fraud, the court may not grant you probation. Instead, you may have to serve the imprisonment period in a California state prison.
Consequences for Intentionally Causing an Accident
The crime under PC 550 (a) (3), causing an accident, is a felony, according to California law. The penalties for the offense include serving a felony or formal probation. The court may also recommend imprisonment of two years, three years or four years. You may have to pay a hefty fine not exceeding $50,000 or twice the amount of the fraud, whichever is higher. You will receive a two-year sentence enhancement for every prior felony auto insurance fraud you may have committed. If you have two or more prior felony convictions for committing the offense car insurance fraud, you might face a five-year sentence enhancement. If any person other than the accomplice suffers serious bodily injury as you commit the fraud, you will face a two-year sentence enhancement. If you inflict great bodily injury on another person as you commit the crime of auto insurance fraud, you might face a sentence enhancement of three years.
Penalties for Making a False Statement
If you make a false statement under California PC 550 (b) (1)-(4), the offense is a wobbler, according to California law. This implies that the prosecutor may charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony offense. While deciding whether to assign misdemeanor or felony charges, the prosecutor may consider several factors, including your criminal history and the facts surrounding the offense. For a felony making of false statements, you will face similar penalties as you would if you committed a crime under PC 550(a)(4) by filing a false or fraudulent claim. The felony offense penalties are also similar to the penalties for the crime under PC 550(a)(2), filing multiple insurance claims.
If the prosecutor charges you with a misdemeanor for making a false statement, the penalties may include jail time not exceeding one year in a California county jail. You might also pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Accepting, Soliciting, or Referring Auto Insurance Fraud Business
You might also face hefty penalties if you refer, solicit, or accept business from a person intending to commit auto insurance fraud as outlined by the California PC 549. An offense under PC 549 is a wobbler, according to California law and may get misdemeanor or felony charges. If the prosecutor charges you with a felony, the consequences may include serving a formal or felony probation. You might also serve jail time for sixteen months, two years, or three years. The court may also order you to pay a fine not exceeding $50,000. You may have to pay a maximum fine of $50,000 or double the amount of auto insurance fraud, whichever is higher.
If the prosecutor charges you with a misdemeanor for violating PC 549, the applicable penalties may include serving an informal or misdemeanor probation, also known as summary probation. You might also serve jail time of up to one year in a California county jail. You might also have to pay a fine not exceeding $1000.
Getting Commissions of Kickbacks from Auto Repair Shops
Vehicle repair shops may give commissions and kickbacks to insurance brokers, agents, and adjusters. To return the favor, the insurance companies are supposed to refer vehicle repair business to the auto repair shops. The applicable penalties for an offense under PC 551 will depend on the amount of money involved.
If the amount of commission or kickback involved is less than $950, the defendant will receive misdemeanor charges. The applicable penalties may include imprisonment of up to six months or county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the kickbacks or commissions exceed $950, the offense is a wobbler and may get a misdemeanor or felony charges according to California law. If the prosecutor charges the offense as a misdemeanor and the money involved is more than $950, the penalties may include jail time of up to one year in California county jail. The defendant may also have to pay a fine, not exceeding $1,000.
If the prosecutor charges an offense under PC 551 as a felony, the applicable consequences may include a jail sentence of sixteen months, two years, or three years. The defendant may also have to pay a fine, not exceeding $10,000.
Fighting Auto Insurance Fraud Charges in California
If you are facing auto insurance fraud charges in California, the prosecution will be hard on your case. In California, prosecutors are often thorough and put extra effort into investigating and prosecuting auto insurance fraud cases because of several reasons. First, in California and throughout America, auto insurance fraud is a prevalent problem. The majority of auto insurance claims in California are fraudulent.
On the other hand, insurance companies have vast political power, and the aim of the insurance companies is to persuade law enforcement officers to eliminate auto insurance fraud. In most cases, the Department of Insurance collaborates with local prosecutors to ensure that persons guilty of performing auto insurance fraud face detrimental consequences.
However, you do not have to give up when the prosecutor charges you with auto insurance fraud. Instead of giving up and accepting the charges, you should seek the assistance of an experienced criminal lawyer. Your attorney can help you to come up with several defenses to fight the fraud charges. Some of the common legal defenses for the crime of auto insurance fraud include:
You did not Intend to Defraud the Insurance Company
One of the important elements of the crime of auto insurance fraud is having a specific intent to defraud the insurance company. You may evade the fraud charges if you successfully show that you did not have fraudulent intent. You may commit a careless mistake, and the insurance companies, together with the prosecutor, may accuse you of committing an auto insurance fraud. The prosecutor has the burden of proving in court beyond a reasonable doubt that he had an intention to commit the fraud. Your attorney may be able to post some doubt to the prosecutor's evidence and show that you had no fraudulent intent, and you are not guilty of auto insurance fraud.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
Most auto insurance fraud cases in California revolve around and intertwined set of facts and events. It can be hard for the prosecutor to gather enough evidence to prove what happened beyond a reasonable doubt. Your auto insurance fraud case may be hard to prove if there is conflicting testimony, circumstantial evidence, or convoluted paper trails. Your criminal attorney may identify areas of weakness in the prosecutor's case and use the lapses as your defense. If the prosecutor does not have enough evidence against you, he/she may not be able to show that you are guilty of committing the crime.
Several offenses, according to California law, are closely related to the offense of auto insurance fraud. The prosecutor may charge you with the offense alongside auto insurance fraud or instead of auto insurance fraud. Some of the related offenses include:
Making a False Report of Vehicle Theft
The California Vehicle Code 10501 VC makes it a crime to report an auto theft falsely. The crime is closely related to auto insurance fraud offense, and prosecutors charge it alongside auto insurance fraud cases. If you file a false report of a stolen vehicle with the law enforcement agency with the intent of deceiving or defrauding, you might face charges under VC 10501.
An offense under VC10501 is a misdemeanor, and the associated consequences include imprisonment not exceeding six months in a California county jail for a first offense. In most cases, the prosecutor may grant you a plea bargain and charge you with VC 10501 instead of charging you with a more serious crime of auto insurance fraud.
When you get involved in a car accident, either real or fraudulent, you may receive charges for both auto insurance fraud and healthcare insurance fraud, depending on the circumstances of the case. You might face these charges if you submit multiple or fraudulent claims for property damage to the vehicle and medical expenses for injuries sustained during the accident.
You may face health insurance fraud charges if you bill the insurance company and seek compensation for medical services that you did not receive. It is common for people to bill the insurance companies for more expensive medical services than the actual medical services received. You might also face fraud cases if you bill multiple insurance claims for the same injury or medical services. The California law PC 550 prohibits all forms of health insurance frauds alongside auto insurance frauds.
Also closely related to the crime of auto insurance fraud in California is the crime of arson as outlined by the California PC 451, you might face arson charges if you maliciously and willfully set fire a property like a vehicle, a house, or any other property, you might face arson charges if you set your vehicle on fire with the fraudulent intent of collecting auto insurance proceeds. The crime of arson, according to California law, may attract a jail time of sixteen months, two years, or three years in a California State Prison.
An arson crime may also attract a fine of up to $50,000 or double the amount of the anticipated gain from the fraud, whichever is greater.
Contact an Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me
If you are facing auto insurance fraud charges, it is important to seek legal representation. A criminal lawyer will evaluate your case and come up with the proper defense strategy. With the right legal representation, the prosecutor may minimize or even suspend your charges. Contact the Orange County Criminal Lawyer at 714-262-4833 and talk to one of our attorneys for legal representation.