July 31, 2010 by The Board of Directors of CASIU
Recently there has been a huge increase in staged collisions and resultant accident benefit claims. Hand-in- hand with the outright staging of collisions is the enhancing of damages to vehicles that may have been involved in legitimate crashes.
One area of enhanced damage that scares all adjusters is air bag tampering. Over the last few months, several vehicles have been examined in which the air bags appear to have deployed. When the ignition is cycled on the vehicle, the air bag warning lights flash, which gives the impression the air bag deployed during the collision.
When an expert examines the vehicle it quickly becomes apparent the air bags did not deploy as a result of the collision. Instead, the air bag covers have been cut and pulled the bags out by hand to provide the illusion of deployment. The electrical system is then short-circuited, causing the sensor to flash, giving the illusion the air bags have deployed.
Damage to the vehicle is, falsely, enhanced, with the end goal having the insurer pay more for the collision damage to the vehicle. It also provides the illusion that the severities of the injuries claimed are legitimate. It makes it easier to slip the injury claims through.
This scam presents what could be very serious consequences for anyone who happens to enter one of these vehicles. Because the air bags have been manually pulled out, and the indicator light is only short-circuited, the explosive charge that deploys the air bag is still intact.
A stray electrical charge or even a bump of the vehicle in the right direction could trigger the explosive charge. However, now there is no air bag between the charge and anyone who might be in the vehicle.
This is a huge safety issue for appraisers, claims adjusters, special investigators or body shop personnel who may be working around these vehicles.
When entering a vehicle which appears to have deployed air bags, tread carefully. If investigating a suspicious loss, and perhaps in doubt about the air bag deployment, best to err on the side of safety and hire someone qualified to conduct a thorough examination of the air bags.
The Canadian Association of Special Investigation Units (CASIU) is a low-profile association whose members come from the claims side of the P&C industry. If you have any questions about false air bag deployment, contact the CASIU board through www.casiu.ca or contact Wayne Somers at 416-774-3760.