Demolition derby? No, this was training for insurance fraud.
Hundreds of insurance fraud investigators, police reconstruction team members and attorneys showed up to watch professionals destroy cars in the Crash and Burn 2011 seminar in Grafton yesterday. In the wide-open parking lot of Wyman-Gordon Co., cars were burned, smashed into each another from different angles and at different speeds, sent into guardrails and other barriers, and torn open by the Jaws of Life.
“The unwritten rule is, if you can’t prove it, you kind of have to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who’s pulling the wool over your eyes,” said Eric Myers, an insurance fraud investigator for Arbella Mutual. “You know you’re getting duped, but you can’t get anything out of it.”
The seminar, hosted by the Central Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council and the New England Association of Insurance Fraud Investigators, showed the damage caused by real accidents, helping insurance company workers realize when fraud is happening.
Participants stood in line to see a deployed airbag and telltale window damage in a head-on collision as Merolli recounted how some car owners will cut open steering wheels and pull out airbags to trick insurance companies.
“Twenty percent of all (insurance) claims have some fraud in them,” said Colleen Cassidy, an investigator for the National Insurance Crime Bureau and president of the New England Association of Insurance Fraud Investigators. “What we’re trying to do is give these guys some red flags so they can spot the fraud damage.”
Public officials and attorneys also learned from watching the destruction, and many applauded the cooperation between the public and private sectors.
“This is really to sharpen and hone the skills of the recon team,” said Mendon Public Safety Director Ernest Horn, head of a regional law enforcement team. “They get to look at how the cars move, how they respond to the transfer of energy.”
Horn said his team of 14 regional accident reconstruction experts benefited from training so closely with private sector workers, who they have to work with in court cases. The training helps insurance investigators and public safety officials look more credible on the witness stand, while attorneys get closer to the actions they defend or prosecute against.
Alison McCall and her photographer, Ken McGagh of The Milford Daily News were kind enough to let Agency Checklists reprint this article. The original version appeared in the May 7, 2010 edition of The Milford Daily News.