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Flopsy is slang for a scam in which the hustler
arranges to be struck by a car, then feigns injuries. The name comes from the loose-limbed roll across the car hood that causes the hustler
to seem like he is flopping around like a rag doll.
A skilled Flopsy artist can take hits up to 25 miles per hour, go rattling across the roof and fall into a miserable pile behind the car without even getting a bruise.
This con pays out in a number of different ways. The driver's insurance company will pay out for medical care from a doctor who the hustler is in league with for a split. In countries that have disability payments, that can be milked. If there is a "friendly" lawyer available to work a lawsuit up for "fear and suffering", it can be a very big payout.
The hustler can sometimes get an immediate cash settlement from the driver, who may fear that his insurance rates will go up, or who has other reasons not to involve the authorities in the matter. A preferred place to stage this play is near the exit from a bar's car park, where the driver will want to avoid a breath test if the police are brought in.
Not related to Mopsy and Cottontail
. Also not related to Dropsy. Or Topsy, the elephant Edison killed. Or the King of Omashu's pet.
A specific example of Obfuscating Disability
. May overlap with contortionist
, where the idea of "rag dolling" comes from.
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Anime & Manga
- Used in Monster. However, instead of being a scam to get money out of someone, it was intended to get prison guards out of their vehicle so that a transported prisoner could escape. Needless to say, it doesn't go as planned...
- In Hayate the Combat Butler, this is one of the things Hayate did for money when he lived with his parents, although it's only shown in a brief flashback.
- Played with in the movie Curly Sue: initially it's played straight, when the titular girl helps her father pull off this scheme with a rich female lawyer ("You've killed him!"). Then later on, said lawyer accidentally hits the guy for real ("Now you've really killed him!"). When the lawyer lets the guy and his daughter stay at her place while the former recovers, the lawyer's boyfriend shows up and tells her they may be scamming her (prompting Sue to say "We're busted" out of earshot), but the lawyer disbelieves this.
- Used as a distraction from a jewelry store robbery in David Mamet's Heist. It's performed by Ricky Jay, a noted sleight-of-hand artist and expert on con men.
- Used to start the con on Penelope in The Brothers Bloom, in a combination of The Flopsy and a pre-planned Meet Cute.
- A rather sinister variant of insurance fraud drives the plot of Dan Simmons's novel Darwin's Blade. The local Mafia recruits illegal immigrants to participate in an automobile-based Flopsy scheme. After giving them a fake identity and a car, they go on the highway and deliberately cause a crash, in order to collect insurance money. What they don't know is that the car has been rigged with explosives, and the Mafia has also taken out life insurance on the fake identities.
- In "The Spy's Retirement" by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, somebody tries this on a carriage containing Dr Watson. Watson quickly sees through the scam, and is not impressed — especially since it results in one of the carriage-horses being genuinely injured.
- The protagonist of Odd John used this repeatedly, though not for monetary gain (at least, not directly). Instead, he'd fake an accident so that he could be carried into the homes of prominent men while a doctor was sent for (this being before the days of paramedics) which would give him an opportunity to study the ruling class at close range.
Live Action TV
- One of the many skills of Ash Morgan in Hustle. He uses an old skull fracture that he accuired in a Bar Brawl that shows up on the xray once taken to hospital to claim on insurance. In fact, the BBC website has made a game out of it which you can play here.
- In one episode it is found out that he is paying for the medical care of his ex-wife who often did this stunt and had it go bad the last time.
- Many Sitcom plots involve such a scam being pulled on the spur of the moment, after a character has genuinely been hit by a car, but escaped without injury. See Frivolous Lawsuit.
- In an early episode of M*A*S*H, Radar encounters a Korean incarnation of this scam - the con is discovered because the doctors have treated the uninjured 'victim' before.
- the famous "Whiplash" Wang... the fall-down king of Korea.
- In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis and Charlie use this in a failed bid to get tickets to the World Series. Emphasis on "failed": Charlie initially volunteers, chickens out, then shoves Dennis in front of a passing car instead, who gets hurt and obviously still does not get tickets.
- Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses episode "Hole in One" used a variant; using his parachute training to fall safely down open pub cellars.
- Used by the guy who played G.O.B. at the end of the third season premiere of 30 Rock. He says he's going to sue everyone in the same way.
- In the pilot of the unfortunately cancelled FX show Lucky, the titular character needs to come up with a lot of cash into order to pay off a debt. When time becomes a very important factor, his friend asks how much is needed, then says he'll be right back before walking out to the street and getting hit by a car, much the consternation of Lucky ("SON OF A BITCH!"). He walks in and hands some money to Lucky, then asks how much is needed and says it'll take a while before walking outside. When he's hit by a car again (he is not a skilled Flopsy), Lucky doesn't even notice.
- Played with in an episode of The Munsters; Herman is hit by a car driven by a rich man. Being Herman, he just gets up and walks away, oblivious to the idea that it should've even hurt. The rich family offers money to the Munsters so they won't sue, which they somehow misinterpret as being sued and thus don't take it, prompting the rich family to make a better offer, which just increases the amount the Munsters think they're being sued for...
- Happened in a last-season episode of Highlander with an Immortal who would allow himself to be "killed" and his (mortal) girlfriend who would play the grieving spouse and collect the money. Goes horribly wrong when a driver decides to just kill her instead.
- An unusual example in the Showtime miniseries Sleeper Cell. The Flopsy is performed by an FBI agent who rides his bike in front of the terrorists' van hoping to slow them down.
- In Cra$h & Burn a group of Russian crooks specializes in this type of scam and a major part of the protagonist's job as an insurance adjuster is to spot which claims are genuine and which are fake. The crooks go so far as to stage a fender bender with an empty transit bus and when the bus driver gets back from checking out the damage he suddenly has dozens of 'passengers' who claim to have been injured in the accident.
- On Parks and Recreation, Jean-Ralphio's only successful source of income so far was getting hit by a Lexus. He barely got hurt; he says he knows a guy who can set these things up.
- In The Partridge Family a man (played by Harry Morgan) is hit in a genuine accident, but decides to fake an injury once he realizes who the bus belongs to.
- As a child, Sarah Walker was used in a similar scam by her con artist father. In the version we see, however, her dramatics are merely used as a distraction while he robs a security van.
- One episode of Taxi has Louie thinking that he is the target of this scam when he learns the elderly woman he hit is a con-artist who pulls it regularly. Unfortunately for him, it turns out he really did hit her and break her leg. And that was before he pushed her wheelchair down a flight of stairs..
- One victim on Thousand Ways To Die was a con artist who specialized in this. He died when one of his marks didn't put the brake on properly, crushing him between her car and the car ahead of hers.
- In one episode of Kenny Hotz's Triumph of the Will, Kenny tries to make money this way but gives up after a few feeble attempts.
- In one episode of Monk, the main character suspects that Sharona’s deceased uncle was a con artist. The uncle had a record of getting injured, including being hit by a Mercedes, and then receiving monetary compensation.
- A variation of this was used in an episode of the original Law & Order, where a pair of lawyers and a doctor were recruiting illegal immigrants working on construction sites, put them into a van, having them cut off people in traffic, and bilking the insurance companies for soft tissue injuries that were very easy to fake. This backfired when one of them died from a more serious injury that went undiagnosed.
- Blue Bloods had the 'van full of construction workers' version of this go horribly wrong. The people running the con got greedy and put too many people in the van. One person was sitting at an awkward angle and bent down just as the van hit the other car. His neck was broken and the scam turned into a homicide.
- A failed version of this shows up on a video aired on Tosh0. A dashboard camera shows a man clearly walking out in front of a car. The driver manages to stop in time to avoid hitting him. However, after the car has stopped about two feet away from him, the pedestrian proceeds to flop onto the hood of the car and even rolls up to the windshield, faking an injury.
- In Emergency!, Roy and Johnny are the marks for a con man doing a flopsy while they are driving the squad. They almost lose their licenses to be paramedics until a police detective finds out about the scam and browbeats him to come clean.
- Leverage: Parker does this in "The White Rabbit Job"; pretending to be hit by a car driven by Elliot in order to trigger a panic attack in the mark.
- In The New Statesman, Alan B'Stard and Sarah have just eaten in an expensive restaurant when neither of them have their wallets on them, and on realising this they put a variation of this trope together on the fly (though with a tone that implies that they've done it many times before). He fills his mouth with the after-meal mints, and sets things up so that a rich tourist accidentally pushes a door into his face, and then he and Sarah splutter out threats of legal action while Alan pretends to be much more badly hurt than he is and apparently spits out broken teeth (actually the mints). The tourist forks out a load of cash on the spot.
- One Dilbert Sunday strip had a variation on this. Dilbert accidentally taps a nearby car and goes to check the damage, only to find the driver horribly twisted and threatening lawsuit. When under oath in the courtroom, he reveals his job as "circus contortionist". (And the entire thing was just to set up a pun.)
- The Saints Row series features "Insurance Fraud" minigames where the player can earn money by pulling this scam. Being a video game, you don't so much roll across the bonnet as get catapulted thirty feet into the air before witnessing a very painful-looking demonstration of the Ragdoll Physics engine. You can control your direction in the air, and you rack up more money by getting hit by one car after the next before you hit the ground and break the combo.
- In the sequels, a good hit can knock the player two or three blocks down the road and about a third as high into the air. In the fourth game, thanks to the player character gaining Super Speed as a superpower, you can potentially ragdoll endlessly through the entire city.
- Grand Theft Auto IV poses this question: you are an NPC civilian. You see a car barreling down the road at triple the speed limit. Do you...
A) Get out of the way?
B) Call the cops?
C) Jump in the way of the car?
- Although, browsing through the radio reveals instructions for how to jump in the way of a car for a quick and easy lawsuit.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer has a distant relative who "jumps in front of cars [to] sue the driver."
- In "The Runaway" episode of Avatar The Last Airbender Sokka and Toph pull this scam on a carriage, though no one was actually hit and they got money by Sokka pretending to be a guard and taking a bribe. That's right, they are getting away with fraud and extortion while most kids on TV Can't Get Away with Nuthin' .
- This is part of one of R.J.'s heists to get food from the humans in Over the Hedge: Ozzie the possum pretends to have been run over and distracts the humans while the others steal the food. It almost goes awry when the exterminator turns up.
- In the Disney film Oliver & Company, Dodger and his gang apparently do this to steal car stereos: Einstein the Great Dane headbutts a car, Francis the bulldog pretends to be injured or dead, and Tito the chihuahua crawls inside the car and chews through the wiring. A mishap on one of these scams is how Jenny originally gets Oliver.
- Milo and his friends try this in The Oblongs at his mother's request, but just so happen to scam his father and call it off.
- Beavis And Butthead - Beavis is hit in a parking lot while riding in a shopping cart, and the driver slips him some cash to keep quiet. The two try repeating it to scam other folks, but fail painfully and repeatedly.
- In Madagascar Escape 2 Africa, the penguins use this to steal parts from safari jeeps, with Private as the injured.