Secs 548, 549, 550 and 551 of the California Penal Code criminalize the many acts that are collectively known as car insurance fraud. Auto insurance fraud is committed through the following acts:

• The accused knowingly submitted a fraudulent claim to an auto insurance carrier;
• The accused had the intent to defraud the insurance company;

Intent to defraud means that the accused makes false representations or the concealment of the truth in order to gain financial benefit. The following are the ways that the crime of auto insurance fraud is committed:

• Sec 548 of the California Penal Code prohibits the intentional act of damaging, abandoning or disposing of an insured car in order to submit an insurance claim;
• Sec 549 of the California Penal Code prohibits the referral of a client to an auto body shop or doctor with the knowledge or reckless disregard that the referral intends to submit a fraudulent auto insurance claim;
• Sec 550 of the California Penal Code prohibits the following acts:
o Knowing presentation of a fraudulent insurance claim for loss or injury;
o Knowing signing or making of a document with the intention to present the same to support a false or fraudulent insurance claim;
o Knowing staging of an accident in order to submit an auto insurance claim;
o Claiming personal circumstances other than the actual true circumstances in order to gain the benefit of cheaper auto insurance coverage;
• Sec 551 of the California Penal Code penalizes auto repair dealers and their employees who offer insurance agents or adjusters commissions or profit sharing arrangements when these individuals refer clients to their shop.

Depending upon the offense committed, the circumstances of the case and the criminal history, the offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The following are the penalties imposable:

• For misdemeanor auto insurance fraud, the penalties are summary probation, six (6) to twelve (12) months in county jail and a maximum fine of either $1,000, $10,000, $50,000 or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater;
• For felony auto insurance fraud, the penalties are formal probation, sixteen (16) to sixty (60) months in a state penal facility with the possible additional and consecutive two year sentence for every prior conviction of the same crime, payment of a fine of up to $50,000 or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater;

The auto insurance fraud is a serious matter in California. Should you be or know anyone facing any of these charges, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.