THE DISTRICT

Four Assaulted, Car Taken in SW

D.C. police are investigating an assault on four people and the subsequent carjacking of their vehicle as they drove home from work through Southwest Washington.

The attack occurred about 9:30 p.m. Monday at P and Second streets SW. The victims said a man stepped onto the street in front of them. When the driver stopped the car, the man walked in front of it and kicked the front windshield, shattering it.

The attacker then was joined by five other men, who pulled the occupants out of the car and began beating them, the victims and police said. The attackers got in the vehicle, a 1993 Toyota Corolla, and tried to run over two of the victims, who ran out of the way. The suspects then drove off.

Mario Cifuentes, 26, of Arlington, was driving, accompanied by his wife, Yolanda, 24, who had picked him up from his office-cleaning job. Also in the car was Maricela Ochoa, 20, a friend of Yolanda Cifuentes, and Roberto Arroyo, 21.

The women were hospitalized overnight at D.C. General Hospital and treated for cuts and bruises. The Cifuentes car was abandoned and recovered several blocks from the attack in the 1300 block of First Street SW.

MARYLAND

Customers Sue Three Auto Insurers

Three major insurance companies were sued for $100 million each yesterday in Prince George's County Circuit Court by customers who accused them of failing to fully pay for medical expenses and lost wages after automobile accidents.

Attorneys for the seven people who filed the lawsuits said they expected other plaintiffs to join the suits naming Allstate Insurance, Geico and State Farm Mutual Insurance.

"These people have paid premiums expecting that in the event of an accident that their medical bills would be paid," said Joseph Cammarata, an attorney for individuals in the class-action suits.

The lawsuits allege the companies use computer programs, medical record reviewers and doctors to shortchange customers who file personal injury protection claims after the crashes.

Spokesmen for Geico and Allstate said they would not comment until company attorneys review the complaints. A State Farm spokesman defended the practice of reviewing claims to determine appropriate charges. "It helps to keep the costs of insurance down for our customers," Charles Ingram said.

VIRGINIA

Fake Gun Allegedly Used in Robbery Bid

A 9-year-old boy carrying a cigarette lighter that looked like a gun tried to rob a restaurant employee in a Virginia Beach parking lot, police said Monday.

The boy and two other youths approached a 21-year-old woman the night of July 28 as she left a Red Lobster restaurant, police spokesman Mike Carey said.

The 9-year-old demanded money and threatened the woman with what she thought was a gun, Carey said. The woman said she didn't have any money, and the boy said he would return the next day and that she better have money then, Carey said.

The boys then fled. Police caught them in a nearby parking lot and also found a lighter shaped like a semiautomatic handgun.

The boy and his 13-year-old brother, both of Newport News, and their 11-year-old cousin, of Virginia Beach, were charged with attempted robbery and use of a firearm to commit a felony.