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Court orders exemplary damages in fundamental dishonesty case

Evans: good old-fashioned intelligence analysis

A district judge in Manchester has made an award of exemplary damages after finding road traffic accident claimants guilty of bringing fundamentally dishonest claims.

The second defendant in the case, LG, hired a Vauxhall Corsa from Salford Van Hire and claimed he was taking his brother, CG, and friends J and B for breakfast when he crashed into a Ford Focus.

All the passengers of the Corsa claimed, as did the four occupants of the Focus, along with a credit hire claim from the driver of the Focus. Salford’s insurer, Zurich, faced potential exposure in excess of £80,000.

According to defendant law firm, Keoghs, which acted for Zurich and Salford Van Hire, it filed a defence pleading that the accident was staged and that the claims were fundamentally dishonest. Zurich also counterclaimed against the claimants and the hirer for an award for exemplary damages.

The hirer signed a witness statement that he “didn’t recognise the other driver or passengers”. Keoghs established this as a lie by proving various links between the two groups, including a holiday photo showing CG posing with three passengers from the Focus, that CG was in a relationship with one of the passengers in the Focus, and that some of them were Facebook friends.

The claimants discontinued their claims soon after service of the defence and their solicitors also came off court record.

Zurich obtained an order that the claims were fundamentally dishonest. J, B and CG were to pay Zurich’s costs of more than £11,000, with the claimants and the hirer LG to pay the counterclaim costs of over £5,000 and exemplary damages of £5,000.

Keoghs partner Toby Evans said: “Whilst this was not the most sophisticated of frauds, it does show that the robust counter-fraud measures adopted by Zurich, good old-fashioned intelligence analysis, and a strong collaborative approach between Zurich, Salford Van Hire, their brokers and Keoghs, led to the early detection of the fraud and allowed us to be entirely on the front-foot in taking the fight to fraudulent claimants, who now find themselves in the unenviable position of each having a five figure judgment against them.”

Rob Higgins of Lucas Fettes and Partners, insurance brokers for Salford Van Hire, added: “This case is a fairly typical example of the dishonest claims our client and their insurer Zurich have faced for many years.”