The vast majority of compensation claims made by road accident victims are entirely genuine, but there are sadly always some who give in to the temptation to over-egg the pudding when describing their injuries. A High Court ruling in one such case illustrated the dire consequences of making a fundamentally dishonest claim.
The case concerned a man who was in the front passenger seat of a relative’s car when another car ran into the back of it. He sued the other driver’s motor insurers for damages on the basis that he had sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck, elbow and knee which caused severe pain and took six months to resolve.
Following the trial of the action, a judge rejected the insurers’ primary case that the man’s claim was entirely bogus in that the accident either never happened or was contrived between those involved with a view to seeking compensation. The insurers did not appeal against that conclusion.
The judge, however, went on to find that the man had withheld relevant information from a doctor who examined him after the accident. As no reliance could be placed on the doctor’s report – the only medical evidence in support of the man’s case – his claim was dismissed. The judge stopped short of finding that the man’s claim was fundamentally dishonest and ordered the insurers to pay 60 per cent of his legal costs.
In upholding the insurers’ appeal against the costs order, the Court noted that the man had sought no medical assistance in the aftermath of the accident. He misled the doctor who later examined him for the purposes of the litigation by failing to tell him about an intervening accident involving a quad bike. He positively lied to the doctor about the longevity of his symptoms and persisted in his dishonesty in a sworn statement.
The Court found that no judge could reasonably have failed to conclude that the man’s claim was, as presented, fundamentally dishonest. He was ordered to pay 70 per cent of the insurers’ costs, to be calculated on the punitive indemnity basis. The finding of fundamental dishonesty also had the effect of disapplying the protection against legal costs normally afforded to unsuccessful claimants in personal injury cases.