Insurance crime: the lousy scam with the hit-and-run

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The lousy scam with the hit and run

Insurance crime: the lousy scam with the hit-and-run-scam

The Berlin doctor Klaus-Peter Ruppert feels abandoned by his car insurance.

Source: Christian Hahn / Christian Hahn

A stranger accused you of hit and miss even though you were not involved in an accident. The police are investigating. In the meantime, the liar is making a claim for some sheet metal damage to your insurance company, which promptly pays for it. Nonsense? On the contrary. This can happen to anyone who has a car.

A.ntly on Christmas Eve two policemen ring the doorbell, the Ruppert family is expecting the worst. What the officers have to say at the end is harmless, but it hits Klaus-Peter Ruppert completely unexpected: hit-and-run, allegedly committed that same afternoon. He did not damage any other vehicle, says Ruppert. Today, almost a year later, he is still fighting for his rights. Not with the police, but with your own insurance.

The 57-year-old doctor actually parked at the site of the alleged accident on December 24, 2008. After visiting the Christmas market with his children and a friend, his companion waved him out of the gap – accident-free, as Ruppert emphasizes. The matter is clear to him: someone has fabricated an accident at his own expense. According to the Berlin traffic lawyer Gregor Samimi, the process is not an isolated incident. “This is a mass phenomenon.” Klaus-Peter Ruppert called on Samimi when his insurance company, the HUK-Coburg, announced in June that it wanted to settle the damage to the alleged other party in the accident in the amount of 569.45 euros. The lawyer only got one delay: in mid-October, the HUK informed its customer that the damage had been settled. He is thus classified in a higher damage class.

Even your own witnesses are of no use

Ruppert’s pledges of innocence were fended off by his clerk – although Ruppert himself had to summon witnesses: his two children and the acquaintance, a former police officer. It’s not about how many witnesses someone has, the clerk is said to have replied. Incidentally, it must have been the case that Ruppert damaged the foreign vehicle, after all, he was "at the specified place at the time in question". The HUK clerk never saw Ruppert’s car. It is based solely on the testimony of the victim’s witness. The insurance employee did not accept the photos that Ruppert’s lawyer Samimi took of the car, which did not show any scratches, as evidence to the contrary: Because of the nature of the Ruppert Mercedes, no traces should be visible.

For insurance, what annoys Klaus-Peter Ruppert is minor damage and thus “mass business,” as Thomas Brandenstein from the Association of the German Insurance Industry (GDV) says. If an injured party makes a claim, then the insurance company has to pay – or prove that the claim is unjustified. This principle ensures that accident victims receive rapid compensation.

In the case of low damage sums of a few hundred euros, the suspicion that the insurers will then also make use of their “regulatory discretion” and complete the processing quickly. There are simply too many cases: The Federal Statistical Office counted 44,119 hit-and-run times in 2007. In 33,714 of these cases, there was a final judgment. In June 2009, the public prosecutor closed the investigation into Klaus-Peter Ruppert’s case. The complaint against the opponent in the accident for false accusation was also unsuccessful. But the Rupperts are not resting. With the support of lawyer Samimi, they now want to sue the HUK. The accusation: the insurance company did not investigate carefully enough.

Only "meaningful" photos are suitable as evidence, says the Berlin motor vehicle expert Cengiz Demir. And if, as in Ruppert’s case, no damage can be seen in photos, the ideal solution is to compare the vehicles involved. Experts compare the position of possible damage and try to reconstruct the course of the accident. If there was a contact with the car, then paint damage can be determined in any case, says the expert. Unless the owner has had the car repaired in the meantime. But whoever hires experts to reconstruct the events, has to invest 500 to 1500 euros – and must not necessarily hope for success. "It has also happened that the insurance company pays even though the damage does not match," reports Demir.

Cases like Klaus-Peter Rupperts also shed light on the problem of the hit-and-run: Even if it is only a matter of minor damage, removing from the scene of the accident is a criminal offense. "Hit and run is therefore practically always denied," says GDV man Brandenstein. This fact seems to be exploited by fraudsters who wait for a car with a slightly scratched bumper to park in front of or behind their own car and then take action.

The Berlin traffic lawyer Mark Krause therefore advises anyone who suspects they have been cheated to only provide personal information to the police, but not to say anything about what has happened or even the parking lot of the car. A lawyer should be called in immediately.

For the Ruppert couple, it’s basically not about money, but about the feeling of helplessness. Klaus-Peter Ruppert doesn’t even know how much the upgrade will cost him. He ordered a new car at the end of the year. And he’ll change insurance.

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