Car Insurance Fraud

When upset about a current vehicle situation, be it a costly vehicle repair or being involved in a collision and incapable of having the car repaired for a lower cost than it is worth, most people think of cutting corners with their insurance carriers to fix the situation. However, many people never act on these thoughts and continue with their lives. Still, some may act on them. If you do, you will have committed car insurance fraud, a crime in Nevada.

Automobile insurance fraud is a severe offense that needs the intervention of an experienced lawyer to stand a chance of winning. At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we are delighted to help if you have been charged in Las Vegas. We will fight to defend your rights so you are not wrongly prosecuted and mount a solid defense strategy should your case go to trial. Call us for a comprehensive consultation and case evaluation.

The Legal Definition of Nevada Car Insurance Fraud

The Nevada crime of car insurance fraud is described under Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 686A.2815 as filing a false claim for car insurance benefits. For the judge to find you guilty of this crime, the prosecution must prove various facts beyond a reasonable doubt. These facts are known as elements of the crime. They are:

  • You willfully, intentionally, and knowingly collected automobile insurance benefits.
  • You knew you did not have a legal reason to collect the benefits.
  • You submitted to the insurer a statement that omitted or concealed facts or contained misleading or false information.
  • You conspired with, abetted, or aided someone else in committing auto insurance fraud against the insurer.

There are many ways to perpetrate car insurance fraud. These are:

  • Falsely alleging injuries because of a vehicle collision—you do this when you allege an accident inflicted bodily injuries, although you might have suffered these injuries before the accident.
  • Making untrue statements on an auto insurance application—you commit this form of auto insurance fraud if, when applying for insurance, you fill in a false name or allege you never were involved in a collision when you indeed were.
  • Staging a collision by deliberately damaging a car and alleging it was involved in a crash—you are guilty of auto insurance fraud if, for example, you wrecked the side of your vehicle using a metal pipe and allege another car hit it during a hit and run to obtain car insurance benefits.
  • Abandoning a car, then reporting it as stolen—this situation is deemed an owner give-up, whereby you take an automobile to a place either recognized for stolen cars or a far-away place and destroy it or abandon it on the road hoping that somebody will steal it. People sometimes leave their cars running or with the keys in them. After the vehicle is left, the owner then goes to the insurance company and police to report it as stolen, hoping to collect auto insurance benefits.
  • Exaggerating the estimate or price of a vehicle repair from a collision—not all car insurance fraud cases are perpetrated by the vehicle owner. This type of fraud is a sneaky trick that unscrupulous body shops and mechanics employ.

If you are involved in a crash and must have your vehicle repaired, you will go to a repair shop or mechanic you know to quote you an estimate for the damages from the crash. The mechanic can then exaggerate the price of the real repair or write an estimate for a repair that does not need to take place to profit from the payout from insurance. Doing this constitutes auto insurance fraud. Mechanics and body shops do this knowing that insurance providers largely take their word for the repair done and are also compelled to trust that the mechanic utilized state-of-the-art parts and that their quote was not dependent on some refurbished imitations.

Consider this example of auto insurance fraud: Brigid’s vehicle is stolen from the parking lot. She calls her insurer to start the process of filing an insurance claim. However, she mentions in her claim that she had more valuable items in the vehicle than she had, like a diamond necklace and an expensive purse. If the insurer determines that Brigid lied about the items present in her vehicle when it was stolen, the prosecutor could charge her with car insurance fraud.

Consequences of Automobile Insurance Fraud

A Nevada vehicle insurance fraud crime is deemed a Class D felony. The consequences upon conviction include one to four years in state prison, a maximum court fine of $5000, court costs, and restitution to the state for the investigation. However, you may successfully negotiate a plea deal where the prosecutor will reduce or even dismiss your charges altogether.

In certain cases, an accused can be prosecuted for burning the vehicle and lying that the fire resulted from an accident just to receive auto insurance benefits. In that case, the accused can be found guilty of arson under NRS 205.010 alongside the auto insurance fraud case. Arson is deemed a Class B felony punishable by one to six years in prison, court costs, a maximum of $5000 in court fines, the costs of offering fire and law enforcement services to extinguish the fire, and the cost of probing and prosecuting the case.

Immigration Implications of Automobile Insurance Fraud

Judges always consider removal or deportation if they find a non-United States citizen guilty of an offense. Immigrants who are either unlawfully in the country or who have a legitimate green card to be in the country can be subject to deportation if found criminally liable for fraud.

You want to consult a lawyer if you are an immigrant accused of vehicle insurance fraud. An experienced lawyer can have the charges against you lowered to those not considered a removable offense or dismissed altogether.

Collateral Consequences of Automobile Insurance Fraud

Apart from the criminal consequences of an auto insurance fraud conviction, you could also be subject to collateral consequences thanks to the criminal record you have obtained. Some of the collateral consequences you would face for a car insurance fraud conviction include:

Effect on the Right to Bear Arms

In Nevada, a person's firearm rights will be impacted if they are found guilty of a felony. That means it will be illegal for a convicted felon to possess, buy, or own ammunition or firearm, even if they have it for hunting reasons. That said, if you are convicted of auto insurance fraud, you will have to surrender your guns to the authorities and will not be allowed to buy others.

Difficulty Applying for a Professional License

If you possess a professional license or wish to apply for one, an auto insurance fraud conviction will likely be a problem before the respective licensing body. That said, you could face challenges if you wish to become a:

  • Teacher.
  • Commercial driver.
  • Law enforcement officer.
  • Private security officer.
  • Doctor.
  • Pharmacist or pharmacy technician.
  • Nurse or certified nursing assistant.
  • Lawyer.
  • Security broker and registrant.
  • Insurance broker.
  • A business owner requiring a liquor license.

In Nevada, regulations on professional licensing usually necessitate professional license holders to self-report criminal convictions or charges, which results in moves to suspend or revoke the license.

Difficulty Obtaining Employment

Prospective employers usually discriminate against job applicants with a criminal record. Almost every job application asks about your criminal record, and most employers perform background checks. A fingerprinted background check will even disclose closed (non-public) criminal records.

Jury Service

Under NRS 213.157, 213.155, 213.090, 179.275, and 176A.850, a person found guilty of a felony like vehicle insurance fraud is ineligible to serve on a jury until this civil right is restored.

Defending Against Vehicle Insurance Fraud Allegations

Defenses to criminal charges vary based on the case facts and available evidence. Common valid defenses you and your lawyer may argue to fight automobile insurance fraud include that you never intended to commit fraud and that the law enforcement officers conducted an unlawful search and seizure. However, every case is unique, and your situation may have different applicable defenses.

Lack of Fraudulent Intent

For the prosecution to prove you committed vehicle insurance fraud, it must show you intended to defraud your insurer. The judge should not convict you if you did not act with the requisite intent. It could be that you only made a genuine mistake or that your insurance carrier misunderstood you, and the prosecutor cannot demonstrate beyond any doubt that you intended to defraud.

Consider this example: let us say your vehicle was indeed stolen, and when reporting the theft, you mentioned you had a costly possession in there that you forgot you had earlier taken out. In that case, the judge should not convict you of fraud for forgetting that you had taken the valuables from the vehicle. That is because you did not intend to perpetrate fraud just to report the possession you thought somebody stole.

The Vehicle Was Indeed Stolen

You cannot be convicted of auto insurance fraud if you can prove someone stole your car and you never abandoned it, as alleged.

Insufficient Evidence to Prove You Committed Vehicle Insurance Fraud

Most car insurance cases hinge on intricate facts. The prosecution can have difficulty proving what happened beyond a reasonable doubt, especially if complex paper trails, conflicting evidence, or circumstantial evidence is involved. Therefore, it is your skilled lawyer’s responsibility to spot the ambiguities in the D.A.'s case and to assist you in gathering irrefutable evidence to prove your innocence.

An Offense Never Occurred

You could assert this defense if you were in a collision or hurt during a crash. In this case, you would not have committed any car insurance fraud.

Illegal Search or Seizure

This defense would be valid if law enforcement searched your property without a valid warrant or probable cause. In any criminal case, any evidence or information police officers obtain during a warrantless search is considered unlawful and thus inadmissible in court.

Your lawyer can have the evidence thrown out by filing a motion to suppress. This motion argues that law enforcement officers conducted an illegal search and violated your constitutional rights. Should the judge agree to your lawyer’s arguments, all the evidence obtained during the search or seizure must be removed from the case and cannot be presented in court. That may lead to the prosecution not having sufficient evidence to demonstrate the case against you beyond any reasonable doubt. This would, in turn, mean that the judge would be left with no choice but to dismiss the case.

Arguing that you did not own the vehicle involved is not a valid defense. For example, a physician who intentionally writes a false medical report to an insurer regarding an injured motorist is still committing vehicle insurance fraud.

Sealing a Car Insurance Fraud Criminal Record

Most criminal convictions are sealable after a particular period if the person to whom the record belongs does not commit other crimes and completes all the penalties the court ordered. A criminal record for automobile insurance fraud is sealable five years after the closing of the case. If the prosecution charged you and your case was dropped, or the court acquitted you, you could request that your record be sealed immediately.

Find a Skilled Car Insurance Fraud Attorney Near Me

If you are accused of car insurance fraud, the state prosecutor has alleged you perpetrated a felony crime. As we have seen, a felony conviction carries stiff criminal and collateral penalties and can significantly impact your loved ones' lives. Consequently, if you are accused, your best bet is to contact a skilled car insurance fraud lawyer.

At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we have decades of experience defending against auto insurance fraud cases. We deeply understand the Nevada auto insurance fraud laws and can help protect your rights. Most times, the police and insurance providers are wrong in their investigations, and sadly, not having an experienced attorney who understands the complexities of auto insurance fraud can have serious consequences. We can assist you in defending against these severe accusations, restoring your freedom, and keeping a criminal-free record.

If you have been charged in Las Vegas, call us at 702-380-4278 for a free consultation to learn more about your charges and legal options.