On May 31, 1999 at about 11:20 I was traveling east on Route 2A in Concord, approaching the Route 2 Rotary. I was about third in line to enter the rotary, which I did uneventfully. Traffic was moderate. I was in the right lane of the rotary as I reached the driveway of the Exxon station just prior to the Route 2 West exit. I planned to continue on 2A east after passing Route 2. I was accelerating from zero to about 25 MPH, and had just about reached that speed at this point.
Suddenly, I both saw a car cut right in front of me from the left, and heard the impact, as my front left bumper hit the right tail light and right side of a Honda Civic. I saw the occupants of the car looking back at me during the impact. I did not see this car at all prior to the impact, except as one of several cars coming around the bend in the inside lane as I entered the outside lane of the rotary about five seconds earlier. The car caught me from behind and then cut immediately in front of me, as if to deliberately cause an accident.
This is an extremely unusual event, since I haven't been involved in an accident in 30 years, and haven't had a ticket in 15 years. There was no opportunity for defensive driving or noticing erratic behavior on the part of the other driver, since he caught me from behind.
I immediately braked, with such good effect that the impact was rather minor. My car sustained no structural damage at all. The rubber cover on the front bumper showed only a slight dent. The Honda had the tail light broken, and the doors were pushed in a couple of inches. This type of damage I could do to a Honda by kicking it; it was not much of an impact. The vehicle was driveable, and the passenger compartment didn't appear to be penetrated as far as I could see. No glass was broken on either vehicle.
The driver jumped out of his car, ran over to my car and started swearing at me, evidently to intimidate me. I was somewhat concerned that he might be armed or do something stupid. Both he and the passenger emerged from the car and he started yelling ``Back up, back up, get that thing off the road'' multiple times, trying to get me to back up far enough to make it into the gas station. It did seem like a good idea at the time to get out of the rotary, so I did, but in retrospect I would have left the car right there to document the position of the collision.
As soon as I got out of my car in the gas station driveway, a third individual appeared, hereafter called witness A, having stopped his car just before the gas station. It seemed unusual for a witness to stop for such a minor event, but there he was with another person (witness B) who probably was traveling with him. At the time I was unable to determine who worked at the gas station and who had just stopped. Witness A asked if everyone was OK, and then said, ``I don't know, if I were you I'd just exchange information from the registrations instead of calling the cops.'' He then started talking about the rotary, saying ``Everyone treats this as a two-lane rotary, but it's really a one lane; you have to stop for everyone.'' He continued on this theme for a while, which didn't make much sense to me at the time.
I did exchange information with the passenger, the owner of the vehicle. When I saw that she was from South Boston, I immediately thought of a Boston Globe article describing the insurance fraud in which individuals actually cause accidents, and then file phony claims working with crooked chiropractors or doctors. I recalled that South Boston was one locality mentioned in the article. I figured that there must be a lot of people from South Boston around, but I started to pay as much attention as I could to what was going on due to the circumstances of the collision. The passenger moved fairly quickly in exchanging the documents, walking around the cars, etc, and showed no signs of any injury or pain.
The driver was belligerently walking back and forth, at times appearing calm and at times appearing agitated, and finally went over to the gas station and called the State Police. They arrived simultaneously with a fire truck and an ambulance and I believe the Concord Police. The driver regained his composure amazingly well, about this point, and he never appeared angry at all after this.
Upon arrival the State Police officer asked if anyone was hurt. I said no, upon which the driver said, ``well, my girlfriend hurt her neck and back a little, but it's not bad.'' That got my attention, since she certainly looked fine to me, and the collision was extremely minor.
The State Police officer found out that he had two witnesses, one of whom was witness A (I assume the other was witness B), so he talked to them first, along with the driver and passenger, since their car appeared to have been hit by my car. By the time he got to me, he understandably felt he had the picture. He immediately said that he would be citing me for failure to yield right of way in a rotary. I pointed out that the collision didn't occur any where near where I had entered the rotary, but near the Route 2 exit. I asked him if he was going to draw a diagram of where it had occurred, and he said he would.
The officer went back into his car to work on his paperwork, and I asked witness A to verify my account, saying ``the collision occurred right there, right?'' pointing to the scene. He said, ``no, sorry, I think it occurred more back there,'' pointing much further to the left, near where it would be plausible that the accident occurred because I entered the rotary recklessly. I mumbled something about ``sometimes it's hard to recall accurately just where these things happen in these kind of situations,'' giving him the benefit of the doubt. I saw no reason to antagonize him.
At this point I walked out to the edge of the rotary to look for physical evidence of the collision, but there wasn't too much, just some plastic pieces of tail light. These were located about 30 feet from where the cars came to rest, just about at the gas station entrance. Possibly that impact had occurred first, and the cars took that long to come to rest. The officer told me to stay with my car; he didn't want me to get hit!
As the police were taking statements and filling out their paperwork, I saw the EMT's working on the passenger. They were strapping her to the board, immobile. I immediately thought, well, here's the insurance fraud, but a lot of people are ready to fake an injury in order to possibly collect some insurance money. It could just represent a case of taking advantage of the situation. It did seem odd that she was all by herself, with the EMTs; the driver was nowhere near. If my girlfriend or wife was being strapped to a board, I would be a little closer by, giving a few words of encouragement.
I gave my brief statement to the officer, but the reason for the collision still somewhat baffled me. I suggested that perhaps he thought I was turning onto Route 2, but my blinker was not on. The officer then told me to fill out an accident report available at my local police station. He then went back to work on his paperwork and I observed that the driver and witness A were talking, while the driver leaned against the undamaged side of. the car involved in the collision. We were there for quite a while; the whole event took probably 45 minutes or more. Despite the temperature being over 90, and there being no shade at all, witness A just stood there talking to the driver until the officer gave the driver his paperwork, and then gave me my paperwork. At this point everyone left at the same time.
Thinking about these details and recalling the Globe article on insurance fraud, I realized what had happened. The perpetrators drove around the rotary until they found a relatively slow-moving vehicle enter in the outer part of the rotary. Catching me from behind, they quickly cut me off, forcing the collision. There is hardly any other explanation for why someone with such a good view of my full-sized Chevrolet wagon would drive up and hit me at a time of moderate traffic.
Normally when this kind of collision occurs, it happens too soon for occupants to observe the collision. People normally aren't looking backward and to the side to that extent, and don't react that quickly to a collision. These people were looking because they knew they were about to hit my vehicle.
The car owner was sitting in the passenger seat, which was the side due to be hit in the accident. She would face the inconvenience of getting her car fixed, but would also be in the best position to claim injury.
The accomplices were witnesses A and B, who were following behind, and immediately stopped, prior even to the gas station. In reality, such a minor fender-bender doesn't usually inspire people to stop, and certainly not for such a length of time. If they do, they typically would pass the accident, get a look at it, and decide to stop, ending up further down the road (or around the rotary). Their quick stop was easy to make since it was pre-planned.
The first witness tried to make it look like he wasn't involved in the scheme with his suggestion that we just exchange information. Of course, that wasn't going to happen. (The officer informed me that he had two witnesses; the second ``witness'', didn't say anything to me at all, and seemed to hang back quite a bit, perhaps more uncomfortable with the whole situation than the others.)
How can we verify these theories? First, the ``witnesses'' are connected somehow to the perpetrators. Both the driver and passenger are from South Boston, but with different addresses. It wouldn't surprise me if the ``witnesses'' were from nearby. Even if not, they can probably be shown to know the perpetrators.
It takes some skill to hit someone and cause this kind of accident. It's quite possible that the driver is not the boyfriend of the passenger, but instead someone referred to her as able to perform the required driving stunt. They didn't appear to me to have a very close relationship. This could be verified.
A big possibility is that these people, particularly the driver, have been involved in this kind of thing before, perhaps as the driver in accidents involving claimed injury, or as the claimant himself.
Finally, a big insurance claim will be lodged, possibly in collusion with some medical practitioners, since I understand the big ``pain and suffering'' money can be obtained only after $2000 is exceeded in medical bills.
In order to fill out the accident report, I returned to the rotary with my stopwatch. Driving through the rotary with stopwatch I determined that I normally drive just under 25 MPH in the outer lane of this rotary. I clocked it as about 110 feet from my entrance to the final position of the vehicles after the accident, which was beyond the Exxon station because both vehicles had to back up to get into the station. From the physical evidence of the broken tail light pieces, it seems that the initial collision occurred about 30 feet earlier, or about 80 feet from the 2A entrance. I normally accelerate to 25 MPH in this vehicle in about five seconds, and assuming uniform acceleration of 5MPH/sec (7.3 ft/sec/sec) from zero to 25, I would cover a distance of 91 feet, so I had not quite reached 25 MPH at the time of the impact. With a continuous acceleration of 7.3 ft/sec/sec, the vehicle would cover 80 feet in about 4.7 seconds, so this is the approximate time between my entry into the rotary and the collision. The speed of the collision would then be 23 MPH, more or less.
If in fact the accident occurred at this time and place, then my entry into the rotary cannot have been the cause of the accident.
A large amount of circumstantial evidence suggests that this accident was a setup. Each point by itself could be explained away, but in sum they make a compelling case. In summary:
I went back to the State Police station near the rotary two days after the accident, and talked to the officer on duty about what had happened, and how the officer had done his job, but unfortunately the witnesses seemed to be a setup. He suggested contacting my insurance company, which was good advice.
Most of the information above was assembled by June 3, and both dictated and faxed to my insurance company, Arbella. The company insuring the other car, Holyoke Mutual, also contacted me, and I referred them to Arbella for a copy of my statement. My claims adjuster asked me to allow him to photograph my car to prove the minor nature of the collision and presumably protect against any large injury claim. I went to Burlington and had that done. I also photographed the car myself for this hearing.
Researching the insurance fraud business I found from the Boston Globe in 1992 the statement that, ``Thousands of allegedly fraudulent and exaggerated claims are filed every year in Massachusetts, costing automobile owners an estimated $150 million to $300 million in higher annual insurance premiums. That means an extra $100 to $200 on each driver's bill, and it's a key reason why Massachusetts has the second-highest rates in the country.'' A 1997 Florida Times-Union article observed that, ``Insurance fraud is estimated to cost between $20 billion to $30 billion a year, or as much as $300 per household.'' So, even though it would be a lot easier and cheaper to just pay the ticket, I have decided to argue for this being a case of fraud, since we all pay for this.
At this point, I felt that I had a pretty strong circumstantial case, certainly enough to provide reasonable doubt that the accident was my fault. However, the smoking gun would be the affiliation of the so-called witnesses with the perpetrators of the fraud. I needed to find out the names and addresses of the witnesses, and then probably my case would be clinched. I called the DMV for a copy of the accident report, and was told that it was not available yet, several weeks after the accident. I continued to call through the summer, and the report never seemed to have been filed.
On September 17th I talked to my Arbella claims adjuster. He was happy to hear that DMV was telling me no accident report was filed, because it confirmed what they were telling him. I also didn't receive a summons to the hearing throughout this period. I recalled that I did talk to the State Police desk guy and told him what happened, and wondered if word got back to the officer and he decided it wasn't worth bothering. The adjuster thought that anything was possible.
The adjuster said that the woman is claiming injury, but nothing too serious. Evidently she is claiming some soft-tissue injury, and she had a prior back problem. Arbella has told her lawyer that they do not feel that they are responsible, and they haven't paid anything. He confirmed that they need to get to $2000 to claim pain and suffering, but said that if she has a lawyer she'll probably get to that number.
Upon reviewing the Boston Globe article on fraud, I noticed a portion which states: ``Two recent studies done by an independent research firm for the Automobile Insurers Bureau of Massachusetts concluded that as many as 10 percent of all bodily injury claims appear to be outright fraudulent and an additional 40 percent appear to contain some exaggeration. The preponderance of the fraud, the studies concluded, involved claims for `soft-tissue' injuries -- sprains and strains, which are most commonly treated by chiropractors.''
On October 14 I received the summons to the hearing. I immediately called the DMV, was told the accident report was available, and ordered it. Unfortunately, the accident report was the biggest disappointment in this whole process. The witnesses were not listed on the report! The diagram of the accident was what I would have expected from the accounts of the perpetrators and the witnesses, but with the witnesses missing it almost looked like both drivers agreed with the scenario, which is completely inconsistent with my accident report. Another big problem with the accident report is that damage to my car was listed as $1000+, the same designation given to the other car. My photographs demonstrate that such was not the case.
The report was dated June 10, 1999, but I don't know where it was all summer. If this was post-dated, it may involve faulty recollections or notes by the officer. I believe that this report does not support the citation against me, so I request that the citation be voided.