When Frauds Collide

, , , | Working | March 31, 2018

When I was 22, I was working for a prominent theater company in Philadelphia as a shop apprentice, building sets. As an apprentice, I was paid very little money, so I lived with my parents, about 45 minutes away. Because of the commute, I had to leave my parent’s house before 7:00 am to avoid city rush hour traffic. I also had to work really long hours, which meant that I frequently got home around 2:00 am.

One night, while driving home after a 17-hour day, I hit a deer. Being young, inexperienced, and without collision insurance, I thought nothing of it since I collided with a deer. A week later, my dad told me that I should contact my insurance carrier, a large, well-known national chain, to see if deer weren’t actually covered under “comprehensive.”  (They are.)

An agent came out to the house to assess the damage, and I asked if I could file a claim in spite of a week passing. The agent assured me that I could. However, the report he filed said that “no deer matter” had been found on my car, but they did find a scrape of paint on the underside of my front bumper. The company then decided that I was trying to defraud them of the $400 cost of repairs.

Over the next year, I had to provide character assessments, a police record of the deer removal, statements of my hours at work, and various depositions, all to support my claim that I hit a deer and was not committing insurance fraud. Meanwhile, the company kept sending me vicious letters, threatening me with significant fines in the hundred thousands, jail time, or both.

The last thing was a formal “hearing” in the city to determine, once and for all, if I was committing fraud. My dad was incensed and insisted on going with me. Once there, I repeated my story about hitting a deer. They asked about the paint, to which I replied that I didn’t know, and that I had probably bumped a parking block. I was then asked where I worked. When I told them, “Downtown Philadelphia,” the response was, “Oh. Okay. We see this kind of thing all the time.”

My charge of fraud was dismissed, and the insurance paid me my $400. I was so angry that I was even suspected of fraud. Were I to actually try it, it would have been for way more than $400.

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