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Staged Pedestrian Accident

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Jean-Ralphio: I made my money the old-fashioned way. (singing) I got run over by a Lexus!
Tom: I still can't believe you won all that money in the lawsuit. You barely got hurt at all.
Jean-Ralphio: Do you want to get run over? Because I know a guy. Super gentle. Minor scrapes and bruises, major dollars and cents!

A Staged Pedestrian Accident is a scam in which the hustler arranges to be struck by a car, then feigns injuries.

A skilled con 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. note 

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 "pain 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 parking lot, where the driver will want to avoid a breath test if the police are brought in.

A specific example of Obfuscating Disability and Wounded Gazelle Gambit. May overlap with contortionist, where the idea of "rag dolling" comes from. See Frivolous Lawsuit for minor but real accidents (and Ambulance Chaser for the lawyer who goes looking for them and might even aid a con artist). Not to be confused with Make It Look Like an Accident, which is an inversion of this trope, though not always involving a vehicle.

Note: This trope used to be called "Flopsy" on this wiki, but it was renamed since the old name was too confusing.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka's students think he's doing this when he gets hit by a car after trying to Dine and Dash and demands the driver pay for his medical bills (and the Shockingly Expensive Bill from the restaurant), but he indignantly points out that if he was faking it, he wouldn't be bleeding that much.
  • 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.
  • An Outlaw Couple in Monster (1994) is introduced with the man preparing to get hit by vehicle—not to scam money from the driver, but get prison guards out of their vehicle so that a transported prisoner could escape. It goes horribly wrong when the man gets hit much harder than he anticipated.
  • In World Trigger, a thug does this to Kuga when he bumps into him, claiming his leg is broken and demanding money to see a doctor. Upon figuring out that he's lying, the otherwise naive Kuga then breaks his leg for real and gives him the money.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.)
  • Modesty Blaise: In "The Hell-Makers", Modesty is visited by an emissary of the villain, who offers her an impossible choice requiring an immediate answer. Modesty rapidly improvises a plan to buy herself some time, part of which involves walking out of her hotel room dressed in the emissary's clothes (having disabled the emissary first) and letting herself be seen getting hit by a car and carted off to hospital, leaving the villain unable to find out from the emissary what answer she gave.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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.
  • In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, the penguins use this to steal parts from safari jeeps, with Private as the injured.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A very squicky version in 1969 film Boy, due to the con artist parents using their 10-year-old child as the victim getting hit by the car.
  • 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.
  • Opportunity Knocks: Dana Carvey's character Eddie pulls this off with his buddy Lou in the opening and closing scenes.
  • Used as a distraction from a jewelry store robbery in David Mamet's Heist (2001). 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 a staged accident and a pre-planned Meet Cute.
  • In one of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies, Pa decides to attempt this when he sees a minor traffic accident result in an immediate cash settlement. The first time, he walks into the street but chickens out when seeing he's about to be hit by a bus. The second time, he covers his eyes and walks into the street, but all the drivers swerve to avoid him and he walks away unscathed from a multi-car pileup.
  • In The Con is On, Peter and Harry pull this trick at the hotel-—pretending that the valet has run into Peter-—to scam a free suite.
  • 1937 short film Torture Money involves an entire ring of crooks running a sophisticated operation in which they fake hit-and-run collisions with taxi drivers and pedestrians. The taxi drivers, victims, and witnesses are all in on it.
  • In Scavenger Hunt (1979), Dummitz sees a Con Man pulling the scam in a car park, and decides it would be the perfect way to obtain a Rolls-Royce grille. He then makes multiple attempts to be hit by the Rolls, all of which fail, but which result in him being run over by a succession of different cars.
  • War Witch: Magicien pulls this, throwing himself into a car and demanding money after he's hit. It works.

  • 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 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.
  • Exile's Honor: During a court session in Haven, a man who tried this on a coachman is caught thanks to Truth Spell.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Better Call Saul: In the first episode, some skaters try to pull this on Jimmy McGill, who calls them out on it. He later hires them to pull the scam on someone he wants as a client. Instead, they end up accidentally targeting Tuco Salamanca's grandmother, who drives a similar looking car to the intended targets.
  • One of the many skills of Ash Morgan in Hustle. He uses an old skull fracture that he acquired 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 when the plate in her head shifted.
  • 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 the Only Fools and Horses episode "Hole in One" used a variant; using his parachute training to fall safely down open pub cellars.
  • 30 Rock: After getting his previous money-making plans trashed, Devon decides to rely on this method at the end of "Do-Over". He says he's going to sue everyone in the same way.
  • In the pilot of 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 con artist), 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 (briefly) and his mortal girlfriend who would play the grieving spouse, with the expectation that the driver would try to buy her silence. It goes somewhat awry when they try this on the titular protagonist, who recognizes the con artist. It goes even more horribly wrong later when another driver realizes there are no witnesses, and just murders the girlfriend instead.
  • An unusual example in the Showtime miniseries Sleeper Cell. The staged accident 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.
  • Chuck: 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 1000 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 recently 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. It turns out the uncle's friend talked him into trying to scam a high-end country club by tripping on a loose brick and pretending to be hit his head hard and fall unconscious. However, once the unknowing third-party witness ran off to find a doctor, the uncle's "friend" murdered him as revenge for sleeping with his wife, believing the skull fracture would be misattributed to the staged trip and fall. Sharona and Monk are able to prove it was murder, although they do so with some reluctance, as the country club was offering Sharona a lot of money to compensate for what they thought was a fatal accident resulting from their negligence.
  • 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, putting 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 it 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:
    • Eliot walks in front a car and pretends to be injured in "The Juror #6 Job" to ambush two guys who are tailing the mark.
    • Parker does this in "The White Rabbit Job"; pretending to be hit by a car driven by Eliot 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 realizing 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.
  • A segment on The Daily Show featured footage from Russian dash-cams, one of them a guy who delivered an unbelievably unconvincing attempt on a car that had stopped a few feet away from him.
  • The b-plot of the Murdoch Mysteries episode "House of Industry" has George and Henry's motor-car apparently hit a young boy, and they give (the woman who claims to be) his mother money to pay for a doctor. The following day, in uniform, they see the mother and child acting out the same scene with another motorist. Henry comments how unlucky the boy is, to be hit by a car twice in two days. They eventually catch the woman, but the boy escapes by convincing George he hit the car wrong and is really injured this time.
  • In The Wire, this is one of many scams pulled by lovable junkies Bubbles and Johnny. When he throws himself into a construction worker's truck, Johnny has the advantage that he has just gotten out of the hospital and even has a colostomy bag to discourage the driver from examining him too closely. The purpose of the flop, however, is not to get cash from the driver or to commit Insurance Fraud. It's just a diversion while Bubbles steals his load of copper pipes to sell to another contractor.
  • One episode of Space Precinct has a boy pretending to be hit by a car and demanding compensation. Then, a person explains to the driver that the boy is known to play such tricks... he's the boy's accomplice, and uses the opportunity to pick the driver's pockets. The driver doesn't care, being busy scanning the alien for suitability for his Organ Theft ring.
  • The Punisher (2017). In "Two Dead Men", Frank Castle 'accidentally' walks in front of Sarah Lieberman's vehicle as she's pulling into her driveway, so he'll have an excuse to go inside her house. Given that Frank is Made of Iron, a slow-moving minivan is hardly going to kill him!
  • The Professionals. In "The Female Factor", this is used as a Meet Cute to get a Honey Trap to meet a politician, by having her walking out in front of his vehicle.
  • In "Digestif" from Yellowjackets, Jeff seemingly runs into a man in the middle of the street while being spontaneous and taking Shauna to Colonial Williamsburg. When he gets out and says he's going to call an ambulance, the man gets up and pulls a gun, telling him not to do that, and demands the keys to the minivan.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
    • In Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, the damned can get out of Hell faster by intentionally torturing themselves as penance. This, combined with Hell's (intentionally) asinine laws means an immortal zombie can get out of Hell by throwing himself into literally-exploding Hellcars for a few minutes.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV NPC civilian have a tendency to jump in the way of your car. Browsing through the radio reveals instructions for how to jump in the way of a car for a quick and easy lawsuit.

    Western Animation 
  • 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: Toph earthbends a rock in its path, pretends it hit her, and Sokka pretends to be a guard who takes a bribe to remain silent.
  • Milo and his friends try this in The Oblongs at his mother's request, but the driver turns out to be his father, so they 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.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: Cecil Turtle tries this in the episode "Shell Game", putting a brick behind Bugs's car, and when Bugs hits it, pretending that Bugs hit him and that his shell was damaged. Bugs catches him when Cecil tries to hit Porky with the same scam.

    Real Life 
  • In the early 2010s, Russia started getting a (not entirely undeserved) reputation for having some of the worst drivers in the world. The reason? The frequency of staged accidents (known as Podstava which is "set-up" in Russian) and similar scams had prompted millions of Russians to purchase the newly available dashcams to protect themselves from con artists in the courts (both the plaintiffs and on the bench—police and judicial corruption was also a major factor, and even with the rare honest cop and honest judge, Russian courts don't like relying on oral testimony, meaning they're more likely to believe a crooked plaintiff's "bruises" and "injuries" than an honest defendant's testimony). Inevitably, these caught vast numbers of accidents (often due to the combination of heavy snow and heavy drinking), the videos of which quickly made their way on to YouTube and similar venues, and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • A similar scam (also supposedly perpetuated by Russians—the Russian Mob in this case) has a driver get in front of a patsy and then brake so that their car is intentionally rear-ended, forcing the victim to pay out in insurance claims.
  • The concept of flopping in basketball is the sports version of this trope, wherein a player feigns being knocked down in order to get the referee to call a personal foul against the opposing team.
    • This practice is known as "diving" in other sports, including hockey, where it can be called and penalized. A variation is to remain down longer than necessary after a legal or illegal hit, hoping to entice the referee to call a penalty on the play.
    • Soccer is probably the sport where this happens the most, where even the most minor contacts can result in dramatic falls and writhing. It's one of the things the vocal hatedom soccer enjoys in certain places likes to point out, and gave rise to the joke "Football is ninety minutes of pretending you're hurt, rugby is eighty minutes pretending you're not."
    • This can also be an issue in American football, with players laying on the field for an excessive amount of time after getting hit, either to run down the game clock or give their side extra time to recover between plays. Depending on the league, this can result in the team being charged a time-out or even receiving a delay-of-game penalty.
  • Some cat owners joke that their pets "commit insurance fraud" by running in front of their legs (or a slow-moving bicycle) and pretending to be hit.


Video Example(s):


Pay the Girl

A staged pedestrian accident with a twist. In "Heroes of Patience" from "Resident Alien," the girl Sahar pretends to get run over by the government agents David Logan and Lisa Casper while out bike-riding. She collects $100, but her true intention was to hide a smartphone under their RV in order to track them.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / StagedPedestrianAccident

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