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Orange County Car Insurance Fraud Defense Attorneys


Charged with Violating Penal Code 548 - 551

It started with a simple question - "Who will ever know?"

Given the situation, that seems like a fair enough question. You had a minor fender bender with a wall or a pole and now your car has a nice dent in it. It happened in a parking lot, with no one around. There weren’t any cameras or security guards, so who would know what happened? It was a simple matter of calling your insurance company and reporting that someone hit your car. How easy is that? You get your damages covered and no one is the wiser.

Or are they?

Here is the thing with insurance fraud – especially car insurance fraud. Your policyholder will go to great lengths to make sure your claim is legitimate. Insurance companies hate having to shell out money to cover damages. They’ll spend just as much trying to prove that what you are saying is true. No matter how clear cut the claim may seem, insurance adjusters will investigate just about every inch of your car to make a case against you. So, when the question "Who will ever know" comes up, you can bet your insurance company will have an answer.

With that understood, mistakes do happen. Many innocent people get accused of fraud every day. You may have exaggerated your claim in the heat of the moment. You may have accidentally reported your claim wrong. Whatever the case may be, you have the right to a strong legal defense. If you are facing auto fraud charges in Orange County, contact the criminal defense team at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti as soon as possible.

You can reach us at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999.

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What Is Auto Insurance Fraud?

In the state of California, auto insurance fraud falls under Penal Code 548 - 551. The law states that when you submitted your claim, you knew it was a lie and your intention was to get money that you did not deserve. This, of course, can happen in a wide variety of ways, from abandoning your vehicle somewhere desolate to pushing it off a cliff and reporting it stolen. Whatever the case may be, if you lie about the damage caused to your vehicle to retrieve monetary compensation, it's considered auto fraud.

Auto insurance fraud charges can also be filed against individuals who submit multiple claims for the same incident as well as against businesses that assist in filing a fraudulent claim, such as an auto body shop that overinflates their rates so that the driver can receive more compensation from a claim. In some cases, charges of bribery can overlap with auto insurance fraud if a business owner like a mechanic or repair shop offers kickbacks to insurance agents who refer clients to their business.

However, these cases are not clear cut. Remember, you are considered innocent until proven guilty, and it is the job of the prosecution to prove that you committed fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. That means clearly outlining how your actions resulted in auto fraud by showing that you:

  • Willingly damaged, hid, or disposed of your vehicle;
  • With the intent of defrauding an insurance policy;
  • By knowingly filing a claim for compensation.

Because this is an intent crime, the district attorney prosecuting your case must demonstrate that you actually intended to commit fraud and did not simply make a mistake while filing a claim. Auto insurance policies can be extremely complicated when you first file a claim and you may have accidentally filled out the wrong field in a form or misunderstood what damages your policy covers. What ever the case, you deserve a strong defense.

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Types of Auto Fraud Cases

Typically, auto insurance fraud is filed against drivers who make false claims for damage to their vehicles, but there are several cases that can lead to a charge of fraud. Fraud can take many forms, from providing false information on a legal document, over-exaggerating a situation, or otherwise lying for personal gain. With regards to auto insurance, charges of fraud can include:

  • Abandoning a vehicle in a remote location and filing a claim for a stolen vehicle
  • Filing multiple claims for a single incident, such as a broken part, dent, or scratch in the vehicle’s paint
  • “Faking” a car accident with the purpose of filing a claim
  • Over-exaggerating the damage to a vehicle in a claim to receive more compensation
  • Over-inflating the prices on auto shop repairs in order to receive a higher payment from an insurance company
  • Filing a false statement in conjunction with an auto insurance claim, such as a forged witness testimony
  • Knowingly doing business with someone who intends to commit auto insurance fraud
  • Offering commission fees to insurance brokers or agents for business referrals

Each situation is unique and requires a thorough understanding of the law to properly build a defense strategy. Insurance companies do not take fraud cases lightly and will take a vested interest in holding you accountable if you are found guilty.

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What Kind of Punishment Could I Face if Convicted?

The seriousness of your false claim and the amount of money stolen from the insurance company will determine the kind of sentence you face. Each type of fraud comes with its own unique charges and, while there is some overlap, some charges are more serious than others.

If you are charged with filing a false claim for a damaged or abandoned vehicle, you could face:

  • Felony charges of two, three, or five years in prison, felony probation, and up to $50,000 in fines.

If you are charged with filing a fraudulent claim or multiple claims, you could face:

  • Felony charges of two, three, or five years in prison, felony probation, and up to $50,000 in fines or a fine of up to double the amount of stolen money, whichever is higher; and
  • A two-year sentence enhancement if this is your second offense.

If you are charged with causing an accident with the intent to commit fraud, you could face:

  • Felony charges of two, three, or five years in prison, felony probation, and up to $50,000 in fines or a fine of up to double the amount of stolen money, whichever is higher;
  • A two-year sentence enhancement if this is your second offense;
  • A five-year sentence enhancement if you have two previous convictions of auto fraud;
  • A two-year sentence enhancement if anyone is injured in the accident other than an accomplice; and
  • A three or more year sentence enhancement if anyone is seriously injured.

If you are charged with making a false statement, then your crime is a wobbler, which can be charged as:

  • Misdemeanor Auto Fraud: Up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000
  • Felony Auto Fraud: Up to two, three, or five years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000

If you are charged with soliciting business from an individual who intends to commit fraud, you could face:

  • Misdemeanor Auto Fraud: Up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000
  • Felony Auto Fraud: Up to 16 months, two, or three years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000 or a fine of up to double the amount of stolen money, whichever is higher.

If you have been charged with soliciting kickbacks from insurance agents, then your crime is a wobbler. If the kickback was valued at $950 or less, then the charge is a misdemeanor. If it is greater than $950, it is a felony. This charge can lead to:

  • Misdemeanor Auto Fraud: Up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000
  • Felony Auto Fraud: Up to 16 months, two, or three years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

"My insurance company was accusing me of fraud, but Michael L. Guisti showed them otherwise and I got the settlement I deserved and some more money for my problems. I called around other attorneys and they just told me to work it out with my insurance company, but when I called Law Office of Michael L. Guisti they explained to me everything, and how we’re going to beat this. I’m very glad I found Law Office of Michael L. Guisti and I STRONGLY recommend going to Michael L. Guisti if you’re having problems with you’re car insurance."

Client's rating: 5 of 5

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Defending Against Auto Fraud Charges

While the charges for auto fraud may seem complex, your attorney can employ several defense strategies in order to have your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our lead attorney has extensive experience defending clients against false charges and can thoroughly investigate your case to prepare a strong defense. Depending on your case, he may be able to prove that:

  • You never intended to commit fraud. You may have filed a form incorrectly, misplaced a claim and filed it twice, or been unsure of what your policy covered. But if there was no intent to commit fraud, then the prosecution does not have a case against you.
  • Your vehicle was actually stolen, and the insurance company filed false charges against you.
  • An insurance agent misunderstood you and you had no intention of offering a kickback on a referral.
  • There is not enough evidence to support a charge of fraud.

Building a defense strategy against fraud charges requires an in-depth understanding of the law and the willingness to pursue every possible avenue. Our lead attorney can work through the details of your case and provide thorough legal aid, whether it involves negotiating with the district attorney or defending you in front of a jury. But you will want to begin working with us as soon as possible, as the prosecution has already started building a case against you.

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Make the Right Call This Time

Mistakes happen. In many instances, people weren’t even aware they were committing a crime at the time. If you have been charged with car insurance fraud, contact an Orange County criminal defense lawyer at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti to get the representation you need to avoid further complications.

Call (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 for your free consultation today.

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Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.

(714) 530-9690

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