Monitoring Metro: Injury Claims - KMSP-TV

Monitoring Metro: Injury Claims

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Every year, thousands of people claim to be hurt on Metro, but it seems some of them may be faking it.

In one case, a man falls to the ground and grabs his leg, and then others start limping too. When Fire and EMS show up, medics ask who is hurt. Almost every hand goes up. However, Metro says they are not injured at all.

"Some people, I can't tell you how many exactly, but some people feel it's an opportunity to collect some cash,” said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles.

If you rewind the video of the incident, you can see the man who fell down doesn't appear to have a limp until the medics show up. Neither did anyone else.

So what kind of accident was this? Nothing big, but a Metrobus’ side mirror got hit. Video inside the bus doesn't show any sudden jolt.

And yet, one person was carried off the bus seemingly unable to move his legs, and then miraculously, he seems to be back on his feet before walking over to the rear door and lying down -- his legs sticking out of the bus.

"If someone is putting in a bogus claim, it’s identified, they get denied,” said Sarles. “If we think it’s a criminal matter, it gets turned over to the police."

In another case, Maurice Owens, a man now known as “banana peel man,” is caught on camera reaching into his pocket, taking out a banana peel, and falling down in an elevator. He sued Metro for $15,000 in damages. However, he was later charged with felony fraud.

"You're making up the story as you go along from the very beginning, and you're putting the banana peel down, you’re looking around, you’re trying to see if anyone sees you, and then you're falling, and saying that I was injured and I'm suing you for money. That's fraud,” said Debbie Hines, an attorney and former prosecutor.

Owens had nothing to say when FOX 5's Bob Barnard caught up with him outside D.C. Superior Court.

According to Hines, cases like the banana peel are very rare, and it is only a crime if you stage the entire accident.

So while it may look like these people on the Metrobus were faking, the accident, however minor, was real -- even if the injuries are not.

"How are you going to prove it? It's a subjective thing if I'm injured,” said Hines.

One of the first things Metro checks is the video.

One woman claimed a driver closed her arm in the door and sued for an undisclosed amount of money. The video shows it didn't happen and the camera outside the bus shows her walking away -- her arm seems fine. Her claim was denied.

"There are stories that go around about people climbing on the bus after an accident,” Sarles said.

Those are the ones that get attention. Just like the banana caper, it makes it harder for people who really are hurt.

“All the jury has in the back of their minds is they could be faking it,” Hines said.

"If you're committing a crime or you're trying to defraud us, we're going to catch you,” said Sarles.

Metro opens about 220 claims a month for injuries. About 100 of those are investigated further. Metro denies claims in about 15 percent of those cases.

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