The importance of being honest with injury claims

Posted by Julia Prior on

Who are BL Claims Solicitors

BL Claims Solicitors specialise in personal injury, clinical negligence and travel claims, providing our clients with hands-on support, nationally.

We are rated as one of the top firms in the UK and believe in speaking to our clients in jargon-free language and ensuring you're speaking to a highly qualified lawyer right from the outset

Insurance companies dealing with injury claims are certainly very much on the lookout for fraudulent claims. They share information about claims with each other in order to counteract fraud where possible. They are also getting much tougher in the way they deal with these situations.

There have been a number of recent cases where the insurance companies have not only defended the claim itself, but where the Claimants have been found to be dishonest, the insurance companies have successfully fought for those Claimants to be imprisoned for contempt of Court.

As part of the process of bringing a claim any Claimant will have to sign a statement verifying that the contents are true, and they may have to also give evidence in Court under Oath. Giving false evidence in either of these situations may be contempt of Court.

Who is at risk?

It is not only the person bringing the claim who is at risk. They are often supported by friends and family who give evidence on their behalf, sometimes in return for a promise of some reward.

The penalties for the person bringing their claim can be severe. As well as having their claims struck out and having to pay the legal costs incurred by their own solicitors and the other side's solicitors, they can find themselves the subject of criminal proceedings.

There may be evidence that the accident itself is completely fabricated. For example in the case of Caerphilly Council v Hughes, Verity and Rowlands; a claim was made by Mr Hughes against Caerphilly Council with the Claimant stating that he had fallen on a pavement and suffered injury. His claim was supported by witness evidence from two friends. It later transpired that in fact the injury had been suffered not on the pavement but during a football match. The claim was understandably withdrawn, but the Council then brought proceedings against the three men for contempt of Court and it was found that each of them had knowingly given false evidence. Mr Hughes the actual Claimant was imprisoned for 14 days and had to pay the Council's legal costs. The other parties who had given false witness evidence to support Mr Hughes were each fined £1500.

Dishonesty

The dishonesty may also be in relation to the extent of the injuries suffered, where a genuine accident happens but a Claimant seeks to claim more in damages than they are entitled to by exaggerating the symptoms suffered as a result. In the case of Walton v Kirk and Hafeez v Armitage the Claimants were found to have given false information about the extent of their injuries. In the first case the Claimant was held to be in contempt of Court. In the second case the Claimant had to pay all of the insurance company's legal costs incurred in investigating the claim.

Even worse than these situations is the rare event whereby fraudsters actually stage an accident in order to bring completely fictitious claims. In Esure Insurance Services Ltd v Israr Hussain Shah it was found that the Claimant and members of his family all claimed to have been injured in fictitious or staged accidents. Six months imprisonment was held to be the appropriate sentence.

What can the consequences be?

In the case of Lane v Shah prison sentences of three and six months were given and these were not suspended, and in Nield & Acromas Insurance Co Ltd v Loveday & Loveday the sentences were six and nine months, although these were suspended.

Insurance companies will routinely carry out covert surveillance on Claimants where they suspect there may be some dishonesty or exaggeration of the effect of an injury. An investigator will discreetly follow a Claimant and take video recordings of them in their day to day lives. Claimant's are very often shocked when the video evidence is served on them, not only at being 'caught out', if they are, but for the vast majority of legitimate claimants, at what they consider to be an intrusion into their private lives. However this practice is accepted and the evidence obtained as a result is generally allowed to be introduced into the case by the Courts. Even when the video surveillance is taken by an investigator who obtained access to the Claimant's home by deception, that video evidence may be allowed. In the case of Jones v University of Warwick the investigator posed as a market researcher and then filmed the Claimant inside her home. The Court took into consideration that the Claimant's privacy had been infringed. However, the evidence was allowed to be used so that the Judge deciding the claim could see it.

So a Claimant who says they cannot walk except for short distances may be proved to be much more mobile than claimed, as in the case of Brighton & Hove Bus & Coach Co Ltd v Brooks, Tadrous & Tadrous. Or in the case of MIB v Shikell, Shikell, Glancy & Fennell when a Claimant exaggerated the extent of his injuries and was supported by friends and family. In fact he was later filmed playing competitive football.

What can insurance companies do?

Insurance companies have also successfully applied to the Court to have fresh evidence introduced even after the claim has been heard by the Court and damages awarded, as in the case of Singh & Ors v Habib & AIG. In that case the Claimant was awarded damages but then new evidence arose which showed that the claim may have been fabricated and so the Court ordered a re-trial with the new evidence to be included. In the case of AXA Insurance v Shaikh the Claimant had received damages from the insurance company following a road traffic accident, but the evidence later showed that she had recovered from the injuries within a matter of 2 weeks. She was ordered to repay the damages to the insurance company, plus an additional 50% to reflect her actions.

Unfortunately it is these fraudulent cases which tend to hit the headlines and give the impression that they are 'the norm' when that is just not the case. The majority of Claimants are honest and just want to claim the compensation that they are entitled to, no more and no less. That is our job as solicitors, to make sure that our clients receive the right amount of compensation.

BL Claims Solicitors are here to help

If you would like to talk to someone and discuss a potential claim please call us on 0344 620 6600 anytime between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, or if you would prefer you can email us at info@blclaims.co.uk

About the Author

Julia is an Associate within our Personal Injury team dealing with all types of personal injury claims mainly on behalf of claimants.

Julia Prior
Email Julia
023 8085 7316

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