Norwich man’s £22,000 insurance claim scuppered by zipwire stunt
Legal Development 20 April 2023 20 April 2023
UK & Europe
A Norwich man who claimed a minor car accident left him unable to work and requiring costly surgery posted photographs of himself on Facebook swinging from a zipwire while on holiday in Mexico.
Ferenc Kirinovits, a 45-year-old coach driver from Lakenham, who tried to claim £22,000 for his injuries and lost income, also posted photographs of himself hanging upside down from a rope and riding a quad bike. However, a judge at Norwich County Court threw out Mr Kirinovits’s claim on the grounds that he had exaggerated any injuries he had received to the point of criminal dishonesty.
Mr Kirinovits had been driving a car on the A11 near Attleborough in August 2016 when it was struck from the rear by another vehicle. Insurer AXA UK, which represented the other driver did not dispute liability but was suspicious of the severe injuries reported by Mr Kirinovits, who denied any pre-existing symptoms.
At a medical examination in September 2017, Mr Kirinovits alleged that whiplash injuries and prolapsed discs in his spine meant he had been unable to work for three months, was unable to start a new job, could not clean, garden or attend the gym and was unable to swim or play football. Mr Kirinovits also attended a private spinal assessment and underwent an MRI scan in Budapest; this report recommended that he undergo surgery to his neck, which he did in 2019.
Investigations by our fraud team, acting on behalf of our client AXA UK, found that social media posts from Mr Kirinovits and his wife painted a very different picture of his alleged injuries.
Posts and photographs showed the couple on holiday in Mexico in February 2019, six months before his surgery. Video footage and photographs showed that the holiday was clearly active and adventurous with Mr Kirinovits climbing ladders and ropes, riding a quad bike, using a zip wire, jumping off a cliff into a river and swimming. When confronted with this evidence in court, Mr Kirinovits claimed that he had been told he might not be able to engage in sports after surgery so wanted to enjoy them one final time.
At a hearing in Norwich County Court in February, District Judge Jacqueline Raggett accepted that while Mr Kirinovits could have been injured in the accident and had undergone surgery, he could not prove that his disc prolapse or resulting surgery were caused by the accident. Judge Raggett further ruled that Mr Kirinovits’s claim was fundamentally dishonest under Section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act. As such, AXA UK are entitled to recover their legal costs, which are estimated to be in the region of £12,000.
Damian Rourke, partner, Clyde & Co, said: “Trying to fake injuries over a prolonged period is much more difficult in today’s connected world. With so much social media, CCTV and the ability to easily take surveillance footage, our investigators have a rich seam of evidence to disprove fraudulently exaggerated accounts like that made by Mr Kirinovits.
“It’s important to realise that, had he been successful, Mr Kirinovits’s crime would not have been victimless. Honest motorists around the country would ultimately have paid the cost of his fraud in more expensive car insurance premiums.”
Chris Walsh, Commercial Claims Director, AXA UK, said: “Insurance fraud is a serious crime which has significant consequences for fraudsters but sadly also results in higher insurance premiums for honest customers as insurers are faced with increased costs. For this reason, AXA UK is committed to pursuing fraudulent cases to ensure we can protect our customers. A finding of fundamental dishonesty in this case shows the importance of investigation and expertise in fighting against fraud.”
The hearing took place in Norwich County Court on 6 February 2023.