Car insurance fraud is a common crime in Nevada.
It is fraud in Nevada to try to collect on auto insurance when there is no legal basis to do so.1 A common example is people falsely claiming that their car has been stolen so they can get money for it. Another example is when a car owner tries to get more money from insurance than is necessary to fix a damaged car.
Automobile Insurance Defenses:
Two common defenses to fight Nevada charges of auto insurance fraud are:
- The defendant had no “intent to defraud;” and
- The prosecution's evidence was found through an illegal police search.
Automobile Insurance Penalties:
Insurance fraud is a category D felony in Nevada carrying a sentence of:
Staging an accident is a type of car insurance fraud in Nevada.
Scroll down for more information on the Nevada crime of automobile insurance fraud:
Definition of Automobile Insurance Fraud in Nevada
The Nevada crime of automobile insurance fraud is the act of deliberately deceiving an insurance company in order to obtain money that the insurance company is not obligated to give. In other words, car insurance fraud is intentionally making a false claim to get insurance money.3
Vehicle insurance fraud cases are common in Nevada, especially during times of recession. Factors such as rising gas prices, unemployment, and buyers' remorse drive people to try to wrongly collect on car insurance for quick cash. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example of how automobile insurance fraud may occur:
Example: Pam's car is stolen near her Henderson home. She contacts her car insurance company Progressive to make a claim. Then she lies to them about there being an expensive set of golf clubs in the trunk. If Pam's lie is discovered, the Henderson Police could arrest her and book her at the Henderson Detention Center for car insurance fraud. If the court determines that Pam lied in order to get extra insurance money, she could be convicted of car insurance fraud.
The outcome of the above example would be different if Pam truly believed that she left her golf clubs in the car. In that scenario, she would have no “intent to defraud” and therefore would not be guilty of car insurance fraud. Making an honest mistake is not an intent to defraud in Nevada. Other common examples of car insurance fraud are:
- Intentionally exaggerating the cost to fix a damaged car;
- Intentionally abandoning a vehicle and claiming that it was stolen (this is called “owner give-ups”);
- Intentionally damaging a vehicle and claiming that it was an accident;
- Intentionally making a false statement in an application for car insurance;4 and
- Falsely claiming that a car accident resulted in physical injuries (it is estimated that more than one-third of all auto accident injury claims are fraudulent.5)
Note that auto insurance fraud cases in Nevada are prosecuted by the Nevada Attorney General. And a person does not have to be a car owner in order to get busted for car insurance fraud. For example, a doctor who knowingly makes a false medical report about an injured driver to an insurance company may also be prosecuted for insurance fraud.
Also note that a defendant may face additional criminal charges depending on the nature of the car insurance fraud case.6North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse illustrates how this may happen:
Example: Abe sets fire to his car in Las Vegas. He then claims to his insurance company State Farm that someone else had started the blaze. Abe's purpose in lying to State Farm was to get money for the car. State Farm investigates and discovers surveillance video that shows Abe setting the fire. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police then arrest Abe and book him at Clark County Detention Center for both car insurance fraud and the Nevada crime of arson.
Abe in the above example not only had the intent to defraud…he committed arson by burning his car. He would then face penalties for both car insurance fraud as well as arson. Furthermore, he would probably serve the two criminal sentences consecutively (one after the other).
Many defendants in Nevada car insurance fraud cases also face arson charges.
Defenses to car insurance fraud in Nevada
The most effective defenses to car insurance fraud charges depend on the circumstances and available evidence. The following are two of the more common strategies to fight charges of automobile insurance fraud in Nevada:
- No intent to defraud. The most common defense to automobile insurance fraud charges in Nevada is that the defendant had no “intent to defraud.” NRS 686A is not meant to punish people who make honest mistakes or accidents when dealing with their auto insurance carriers. If the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had intent to defraud the insurance company, then the charges should be dropped.
- Illegal police search. Incriminating evidence may be thrown out if the defendant can show that the police found the evidence through an illegal search and seizure. The defense attorney would file with the court a motion to suppress evidence in Nevada, which explains to the judge how the police search was unlawful. If the judge grants the motion to suppress, then the D.A. may be left with too weak a case to support a conviction for car insurance fraud in Nevada.
Penalties for vehicle insurance fraud in Nevada
Insurance fraud is a category D felony in Nevada. The sentence includes:
- 1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- possibly a fine of up to $5,000, and
- possibly court costs, and
- possibly reimbursement costs to the state for investigating and prosecuting the insurance fraud case7
Auto insurance fraud carries up to four years in Nevada State Prison.
Accused of car insurance fraud? Call a lawyer…
If you have been charged with auto insurance fraud in Las Vegas, call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. We may be able to keep you out of jail and your record clean.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Clark County, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
To learn about California auto insurance fraud law | Penal Code Section 548-551 PC, go to our information page on California auto insurance fraud law | Penal Code Section 548-551 PC.
- Presenting or causing to be presented any statement to an insurer, a reinsurer, a producer, a broker or any agent thereof, if the person who presents or causes the presentation of the statement knows that the statement conceals or omits facts, or contains false or misleading information concerning any fact material to an application for the issuance of a policy of insurance pursuant to this title.
- Presenting or causing to be presented any statement as a part of, or in support of, a claim for payment or other benefits under a policy of insurance issued pursuant to this title, if the person who presents or causes the presentation of the statement knows that the statement conceals or omits facts, or contains false or misleading information concerning any fact material to that claim.
- Assisting, abetting, soliciting or conspiring with another person to present or cause to be presented any statement to an insurer, a reinsurer, a producer, a broker or any agent thereof, if the person who assists, abets, solicits or conspires knows that the statement conceals or omits facts, or contains false or misleading information concerning any fact material to an application for the issuance of a policy of insurance pursuant to this title or a claim for payment or other benefits under such a policy.
- Acting or failing to act with the intent of defrauding or deceiving an insurer, a reinsurer, a producer, a broker or any agent thereof, to obtain a policy of insurance pursuant to this title or any proceeds or other benefits under such a policy.
- As a practitioner, an insurer or any agent thereof, acting to assist, conspire with or urge another person to commit any act or omission specified in this section through deceit, misrepresentation or other fraudulent means.
- Accepting any proceeds or other benefits under a policy of insurance issued pursuant to this title, if the person who accepts the proceeds or other benefits knows that the proceeds or other benefits are derived from any act or omission specified in this section.
- Employing a person to procure clients, patients or other persons who obtain services or benefits under a policy of insurance issued pursuant to this title for the purpose of engaging in any act or omission specified in this section, except that such insurance fraud does not include contact or communication by an insurer or an agent or representative of the insurer with a client, patient or other person if the contact or communication is made for a lawful purpose, including, without limitation, communication by an insurer with a holder of a policy of insurance issued by the insurer or with a claimant concerning the settlement of any claims against the policy.
- Participating in, aiding, abetting, conspiring to commit, soliciting another person to commit, or permitting an employee or agent to commit any act or omission specified in this section.
- An agent, broker, solicitor, examining physician, applicant or other person shall not knowingly or willfully make any false or fraudulent statement or representation in or with reference to any application for insurance.
- A person who violates this section is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130. In addition to any other penalty, the court shall order the person to pay restitution.
6See gen., Arajakis v. State, 108 Nev. 976, 843 P.2d 800 (1992).