Recently I was returning from a case in Hamden, Connecticut, and headed back to my office In Long Island City. Traffic was moving slowly in the Bronx as I headed towards the Throggs Neck Bridge. Stop and go all the way so I was doing maybe five miles per hour. The vehicle was stopped in front of me. I stopped. However, the vehicle behind me did not. Sound familiar? Now I’m waiting on the side of the road with a vehicle that was drivable but damaged to the tune of about $9,000, waiting for the Police to arrive. After over a half hour I called again. I was told that if there were no injuries that they no longer come to accident scenes. It was now up to me to become my own accident scene investigator. Fortunately, I do that (and more) for a living.
But what if you don’t have the experience that I have in this area? What if you are not an accident investigator? Well, congratulations, you’ve just been forced to become one. Now the fun really begins. Here are some quick tips in case you are lucky enough NOT to have had an accident yet.
- Call 911. If there are no injuries, don’t expect them to come, but it needs to be on record that you did call them. We can always retrieve the 911 records if necessary in the future through a FOIL request.
- Immediately take out your phone and take photos of the vehicle(s) that you were in the accident with, along with a photo of the person(s) and their plate. If it is a commercial vehicle, take pictures of the information on the vehicle. Take a ton of photos.
- Take a video of the driver(s) and any passengers, especially if they are walking around. Don’t be shy about it. This is important, especially if you hit their vehicle.
- Exchange and take a couple of photos of their license and registration as well as their insurance information. I say take a couple because you have just been in an accident and your focus may not be at its best. Some photos may not be very clear if you are a little shaky, which is totally understandable. However, this information is useless if you cannot read it.
- Ask for the other driver’s phone number if possible. It doesn’t hurt to try and it is a good way to find out how cooperative they will be going forward.
- If the police do not come, and you have all the photos and video you need, you should move the vehicles to a safe location, especially if you are on a busy road or highway. The last thing you want is to have someone else go into the back of the last vehicle because they were not paying attention.
- Last, but not least, if you have not gotten into an accident yet, get yourself a front and rear dash cam! You’ll need that footage in the future!
Of course, there are many other things you can do IF you get into an accident. However, I am going to go out on a limb and say that if you are reading this blog, you have already had one. My condolences. It is not fun dealing with insurance companies or waiting for repairs. I am living that dream right now. Fortunately for us, we have several different vehicles at our disposal because of the work that we do. You may not be as fortunate. To add to that not-so-great experience, now you may have other scenarios to deal with, such as the “at fault” driver may have taken off, or someone you hit has claimed injuries, etc. Here are a few examples of people we have helped in the past, which may give you an idea of why you need to hire an accident investigator:
- Back-ended in Bed-Stuy – we had a client a while back that was involved in a “hit and run” in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The other driver came up behind them, did not stop in time, and rear-ended them at a red light. Sound familiar? The person drove off to avoid being held responsible and left our client there with quite a bit of damage. Thankfully they were not hurt, however, the pain came afterward when they found out how much money it would cost to repair the car and that their insurance would go up significantly since there was no one on the other side to pay. So they contacted us and we got to work. The first thing we did was to canvas the area for cameras. In the age of ring doorbells and surveillance cameras on small and large businesses, it is sometimes the case that you can find a video that is usable enough to get what you need to find the other driver (with our help of course). Time is crucial, so you need to start right away. Oftentimes these cameras are on a “loop” setting so what you need may be lost if you don’t act quickly. So we always start with canvassing the area of the accident and obtaining whatever footage we can. We were lucky enough to get some footage from a gas station across the street, which showed the other car go right into our client. Now we had the proof, but what about the info to find the driver? Well, we reviewed that footage many, many times and found that there were a few decals on the back of the car. We also saw that there was significant damage to the front of the vehicle as well as the make and model. So we continued to canvas the area and came across a residence with a ring camera at the right angle to pick up the plate. We struck gold! Now we ran the plate through our databases, performed a person search and we now had an address. We went to the residence and found the vehicle in the driveway and now we had the information for our client to give the insurance company to be able to put in a claim against them as well as the Police.
- Fraud in Forest Hills – we recently had a client come to us that worked in Queens but lived in Scarsdale so he had a pretty long commute every day. The client was on his way home in his Lexus when he was cut off by a taxi and forced to hit another vehicle. The client’s dash cam caught the plate number of the taxi, which was given to the Police later. But immediately after the accident at the scene, our client said that the person in the other car got out and appeared to be fine. They walked around the vehicles to assess the damage, both of them bending down for a closer look at the impact area. They then exchanged information, returned to their vehicles and waited for the police. Our client called his wife to let her know what was happening and while on the phone he saw the other driver was on their phone as well. The police came and began getting information for their report, but the driver of the other vehicle did not get out of the car. They were now claiming to be injured. They insisted on an ambulance so they could be taken to the hospital to be evaluated. Our client noticed that now the driver appeared to be in pain, suffering from a back injury, and claimed they could not move. A few weeks later, his insurance company said they were being asked to pay for injuries and the other driver had “whiplash” and could not work. So he hired us. We did surveillance on the other driver for several weeks and found that they had no problem doing yard work, going to stores, and riding their bike with their children in the park. After submitting our findings, along with video proof, the insurance company contacted the claimant with their findings and the person only received compensation for the repair of their vehicle after that.
- Hunting for fakers in Hunts Point – We are often asked to help businesses, especially small businesses, who can fall prey to people who will claim injuries when they see a commercial vehicle is involved. We had a case once with a delivery service who happened to take a corner a little too closely while making a delivery in Hunts Point and bumped into a cart that a vendor was pushing. The person appeared to be completely fine at the time. The driver immediately stopped and went to make sure that they were ok. There was no damage to the cart either, but the driver wanted to be thorough, so they exchanged contact information which he could give to his boss when he returned. The next day they were contacted by the Police stating that the driver was involved in a pedestrian hit-and-run. The business owner immediately told them that it was not the case and that the person involved was not touched. The Police said that the person was injured and went to their doctor for treatment and claimed that the driver left the scene. We immediately canvassed the area for witnesses and reviewed the information given to the Police. We went to the witness that was on the report and they told an entirely different story than the driver. So, we hit the street again and found a small bodega that had video footage. It clearly showed the person being bumped into, the driver coming out of the vehicle to help fix the cart, and giving the person his contact information. It also showed the person leaving the accident perfectly fine and walking away without any sign of the “back and neck” injury they were claiming. The events on the video also discredited the witness that was on the Police report. Through data searches, we did on the witness and the alleged victim (now the claimant), we discovered that both had been involved with several “unfortunate accidents” over the past few years. Both claimed to have suffered “long-term effects” from these accidents, which all seemed to be against businesses. People often view businesses as “deep pockets” and worth trying to get money from. We were also able to do surveillance on the claimant and found they appeared to have no issues with returning to pushing their heavy cart around the next day and several days after that. However, we followed the claimant to their doctor’s appointment to be assessed by an independent medical examiner (IME in insurance terms) and that was the final proof. Not only did the IME find nothing wrong with the claimant, but we also had a video of the claimant running up the stairs to the appointment with a cane over their shoulder until they arrived at the front door. They then put the cane on the ground, pulled out a neck brace from their coat pocket, put it on, and went inside very slowly and gingerly. It was so perfect that we looked around to see if we were being punked. But we were not. The case was thrown out and the business was cleared of any accusations.
Now do not misunderstand, there are many, many cases in which we have confirmed legitimate injury on the other side. That is why we tell our clients that we always report the truth. We always make sure to follow a claimant several times to make sure that it is not a case where they were having a “good day” which then was followed by several bad ones. We understand that while the client may not be happy to discover the claimant was in fact injured, they at least know that the injury is legitimate and the restitution is deserved. Unfortunately, there are also scammers out there that will take advantage when they see a business name on the side of a truck, or a person driving an expensive vehicle or wearing an expensive suit. So, call us to look into the situation further if you find yourself at the receiving end of a civil suit due to a vehicle accident. It could prove to be extremely beneficial to both you and your insurance company, or at least make the sting of writing out that settlement check a little less painful knowing it was truly deserved. And please, get that front and rear dash cam installed asap. It will be more than worth the cost in the long run. As for me, I’m off to deal with the repair shop and get my “spy mobile” back on the road, (and to install a bumper guard.) Stay safe!
Investigreat, LLC is a recognized full service Private Investigation Agency that is fully licensed, insured and bonded, handling cases all over Connecticut as well as Queens NY, Brooklyn NY, Bronx NY, New York City, Staten Island and Long Island NY. Terri, along with her husband Adam, have been working cases for Legal Teams, Insurance Companies, Private Businesses, Municipalities, School Systems and general investigation services for the public since 1992.
Investigreat, LLC | Private Investigators serving Connecticut, Long Island City, Jamaica NY, Brooklyn NY and Queens NY | Office Numbers: 860-899-1710 or 718-412-1845 | Text: 718-309-1269
*Please note – This blog is our opinion and not meant to be construed as legal advice or insurance advice. Always consult an Attorney for legal advice and consult an insurance professional for insurance information.