NRS 686A.2815 is the Nevada statute that defines the crime of automobile insurance fraud. This section makes it a crime deliberately to bring a false claim for auto insurance benefits. A conviction is treated as a category D felony.
Common examples of auto insurance fraud are:
- Exaggerating the costs to fix a car;
- Abandoning a vehicle and claiming that it was stolen (“owner give-ups”);
- Damaging a vehicle and claiming it was an accident ("staging an accident");
- Making a false statement in a car insurance application;1 and
- Falsely claiming a car accident caused physical injuries2
Below our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about car insurance fraud in Nevada.
1. What are the penalties?
Car insurance fraud is a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence includes:
- 1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- A fine of up to $5,000 (at the judge's discretion)
In addition, the court may order that the defendant pay court costs and reimburse the state for the costs of investigating the case.3
However, it may be possible to negotiate a plea bargain where the charges get reduced or even dismissed.
1.1. Arson penalties
Sometimes people are accused of setting fire to their vehicle in order to collect on an accident insurance claim. In these cases, they may face charges for arson (NRS 205.010) in addition to insurance fraud. This is a category B felony, carrying:
- 1 - 6 years in prison, and
- A fine of up to $5,000 in fines
In addition, the court may order that the defendant pay:
- Court costs;
- Costs of investigating and prosecuting the case;
- Costs of providing police and fire services to extinguish the fire4
2. What are the defenses?
Two common defenses to auto insurance fraud charges are:
- No intent to defraud; or
- Illegal police search
It is not a defense that the defendant did not own the car in question. For instance, a doctor who knowingly makes a false medical report about an injured driver to an insurance company is committing car insurance fraud.
2.1. No intent to defraud
It is not fraud when people make honest mistakes or accidents when dealing with their car insurance carrier. The process of making a claim can be very confusing. And claimants -- especially after a traumatic accident -- may be prone to making errors.
Example: Pam's car is stolen. She contacts her car insurance company Progressive to make a claim. Then tells them that an expensive set of golf clubs were in the trunk. The clubs are actually in her garage, but she forgot she had put them there. Since Pam believes she is telling the truth, she is not guilty of fraud.
The Nevada Attorney General has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the intent to defraud. This is a very high burden. And often there is no physical evidence of intent. As long as the defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt, fraud charges should not stand.
2.2. Illegal police search
Courts can disregard incriminating evidence if the police found it through an illegal search and seizure. The defense attorney would file a motion to suppress evidence, which explains to the judge how the police search was unlawful. If the judge grants this motion, then the D.A. may be left with too weak a case to support a conviction for car insurance fraud.
3. What are the immigration consequences?
Any fraud conviction is a deportation risk for non-citizens.5 Therefore, immigrants facing auto insurance fraud charges should consult with an experienced attorney immediately.
An attorney may be able to get the charge dismissed or changed to a non-deportable crime. Otherwise, defendants may face removal from the U.S. if they get convicted.
4. Can the criminal record get sealed?
Yes. Convictions for car insurance fraud and/or arson may be sealed five years after the case closes. And if the case gets dropped -- either through dismissal or an acquittal -- defendants can petition for a record seal right away.6
It takes up to a year to get a record sealed. Learn how to petition for a Nevada criminal record seal.
Accused of car insurance fraud? Call a lawyer…
Charged with auto insurance fraud in Nevada? Call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. Or fill out our query form on this page. We may be able to keep you out of jail and your record clean.
And see our article on Nevada chop shop laws.
In California? Go to our information page on California auto insurance fraud law (Penal Code Section 548-551 PC).