Includes bibliographical references (p. -447) and index.
Accidentally, on Purpose is the first book to document the making of America's most peculiar criminal underworld. Not centered on the traditional activities of organized crime - drug dealing, gambling, prostitution, loan-sharking, protection, or bookmaking - this improbable underworld has been built from the raw material of faked personal injuries. Accidentally, on Purpose takes readers back to the late nineteenth century to the earliest slip-and-fall artists, one of whom, "Banana" Anna, feigned injuries for money by slipping on banana peels on steam trains throughout the Midwest. Readers then encounter the "ambulance chasers" and "shysters" of old New York who pioneered the personal injury trade; the accident racketeers of the 1920s; the excesses of self-mutilation for profit during the Depression; and the whiplash industry of the 1960s and 1970s. Through original interviews and research, Dornstein also reports on contemporary gangs whose members travel the streets of cities around the country staging car accidents for insurance money - the "cappers" who script accidents, the "dummies" who sit in cars for crashes, and the doctors and lawyers who call the shots from behind the scenes. In this engaging chronicle, Dornstein tells an original story about a culture in which greed, desperation, and freemarket incentives in the legal system have transformed accidents and injuries from random instances of bad luck into the solid foundations of a vast secret economy. (source: Nielsen Book Data)