March 19, 2019

Law student sees justice in action following fraudulent claim against Specsavers

Clyde & Co has secured a finding of fundamental dishonesty against a university student studying law after he was found to have deliberately induced a road traffic accident for the purpose of financial gain.

Background

The Claimants' case was simply that the Defendant, an employee of Specsavers, collided with the rear of the vehicle which they occupied and which was stationary at the entrance to a roundabout. Two of the Claimants had issued as part of these proceedings and there were a further two Claimants in the background.

The Defendant, on the other hand, alleged that the Claimants' vehicle stopped for no apparent reason when moving onto the roundabout. She applied her brakes and came to a complete stop just behind their vehicle, before her foot slipped off her clutch resulting in her vehicle moving slowly forwards and making contact with the rear of the Claimants' vehicle. We suspected that this was an induced accident for the following reasons:

  • The Defendant's evidence was that there was absolutely no reason for the First Claimant to have brought the vehicle to a stop; there were no other vehicles on the roundabout  
  • Following the accident both vehicles pulled over and the First Claimant and one of his passengers got out of their vehicle. The First Claimant already had his details written down and handed them straight to the Defendant
  • When the Defendant then suggested calling the police, the Claimants left the scene in a hurry, which was a little more than suspicious. The First Claimant then stated in his witness statement that 'the Defendant was very apologetic after the accident and repeatedly said sorry. I therefore saw no reason to call the police as she had given me her details'. Both of these things, however, were untrue. The First Claimant later addressed the induced accident concerns in his statement by saying 'if she thought I was driving so strangely… why didn’t she telephone the police at the scene?'. He seemed to be pre-empting what he knew the Defendant was going to say in respect of the Police
  • The First Claimant was also involved in an accident in June 2015. The insurers in respect of this previous accident had concerns that this accident was induced and repudiated the claims accordingly. This previous accident also involved both of the pre-issue Claimants from the index accident
  • There was also a clear difference in terms of the level of damage to the Claimants' vehicle and the insured's vehicle. We had obtained a forensic report confirming this however unfortunately the court did not give us permission to rely on this (we did not make a further application to rely on it as the individual engineering reports and accompanying images on each vehicle spoke for themselves)

Trial

The matter proceeded to trial on 28th February 2019 at Manchester County Court.

At trial the First Claimant was asked about the DPA response we had in respect of the 2015 accident, confirming that the insurers had repudiated the claims on the basis that they arose from an induced accident. Interestingly, the two pre-issue Claimants in this matter also featured in the 2015 accident. The First Claimant plead ignorance in respect of this previous accident and said he wasn’t involved in it, and had no idea why he featured on this claim/DPA response. However, the First Claimant's medical report from the index accident also noted this same 2015 accident date under 'previous accidents', so clearly this was no coincidence (although the First Claimant attempted to assert it was, and that the medical expert had recorded the date incorrectly as well!). 

Both Claimants were also very inconsistent during cross examination, most notably as to why they were driving around with 4 people in the car (neither of them could explain why they were all in the car or where they were going!).

The Judge found that the First Claimant had deliberately induced the accident and wholly rejected the Claimants' accounts as they were 'wholly incredible and inconsistent'. He went on to find that there may have been 'some breach of duty on the part of Ms McGimpsey in allowing her foot to slip off the clutch but found that this was entirely subsumed in the First Claimants' fraudulent act of inducing the accident'.

Accordingly both claims were dismissed in full and the claims were found to have been fundamentally dishonest pursuant to CPR 44.15. The Claimants were ordered to pay the Defendant's costs assessed on the indemnity basis.

To add insult to injury, the First Claimant was also ordered to repay the interim payment in respect of the alleged damage to his vehicle in the sum of £2,300.00 (plus £150.00 interest).

Strategy

The approach we took to this case, most notably on the day of the trial, illustrates the robust approach the fraud team and Clyde & Co will take to fraudulent claims. The First Claimant, after giving his evidence at trial, firstly offered to discontinue his claim on a 'drop hands' basis (meaning the Claimant discontinued his claim with no costs payable). When this was rejected he offered to pay £3,000.00 towards our costs and return the interim payment in the sum of £2,300.00 on the basis that he was allowed to discontinue and walk away from the claim. It is suspected he did this to avoid a finding of dishonesty given that he is a student studying for a law degree. After careful consideration of the evidence we decided to reject this offer and continue with the rest of the trial. The amount he was offering was only around 25% of the Defendant's costs and we did not believe this to be a good offer given the position we were in.

Authored by Damian Rourke and Charles Clayton.