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There have been a number of stories on the local news as well as national investigative television shows of private detectives and informed citizens who have uncovered fraud in their own communities. The type of stories that typically captures headlines include the private detective who snaps photographs of a disability recipient out playing rough, physical contact sports while claiming that back pain prohibits him or her from working. Take, for example, a recent story about a Las Vegas man who was recently sentenced for workers’ compensation fraud after it was uncovered he operated his own handyman business and routinely violated his doctor’s orders despite claiming that he injured his back while working at Dunkin’ Donuts and could not return to work.
Fraud in workers’ compensation cases, disability claims, and personal injury is real and, if detected, can result in the fraudster facing serious civil and criminal penalties. But what exactly is personal injury fraud in Las Vegas, and does the risk of being accused of fraud outweigh the benefits of pursuing compensation through a personal injury lawsuit?
In order to be convicted of a criminal offense, the government’s prosecutors must prove that you (1) committed a prohibited act in violation of the criminal laws, and (2) that you did so with a “guilty mind” (that is, that you intended in some manner to commit the prohibited act). For most fraud statutes in Nevada, this second element requires a showing that you made a statement or withheld important evidence with an intention to deceive or defraud another person. That is, your intent in making a statement or presenting fraudulent must have been to cheat or wrong someone. In general, you must also have known that the statement or evidence presented was not truthful at the time you presented it. It is not fraud if:
You made an honest mistake in recalling the facts of your personal injury incident;
You accurately reported facts or conclusions told to you by another person (such as a doctor) with no knowledge that such facts or conclusions were not accurate; or
You “guess” about some information but do not do so with an intention to defraud another person.
So long as you attempt to provide truthful statements about your accident to your attorney and to the court, you should not let worries about being accused of fraud keep you from pursuing a claim for compensation – even if some of your statements or memories are later refuted by the evidence. It is only when you deliberately falsify the facts surrounding your injury or misrepresent how your injury occurred that you face the potential of being accused of fraud.