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Claimant’s injury claim goes up in smoke

12 September 2023
An accident claimed to have happened at an annual fireworks display was found to be fundamentally dishonest, having been withdrawn weeks before it was due to be heard at trial.  

There was no need to set aside the Claimant’s discontinuance for that finding to be made.  

The claimant brought a claim for damages of £50,000, with costs budgeted at almost £60,000.

The defendant is now entitled to enforce its claim for costs of over £25,000.

The claimant attended the defendant’s annual fireworks display. She says she tripped over a concrete block, and was helped to her feet by two girls. 

She claimed that she suffered a fractured shoulder. She brought a claim for damages up to £50,000, and a claim for costs of almost £60,000.

The defendant was suspicious of the claim; the incident was not reported at the time, despite a team of marshals being on site, and there being only one way in and out of the site. 

The claimant presented a statement from a man (rather than the two girls mentioned when the claim was first reported), who claimed he had assisted her after the incident. 

Unbelievably, the claimant said her boyfriend had bumped into the witness a year later in a shop, and he had offered to give a statement at that time.    

Social media enquiries indicated a much closer relationship, predating the meeting in the shop; and on cross-examination, the claimant confirmed that the witness’ girlfriend had moved in to a house a few doors from her during the pandemic.

The defendant put written questions to the claimant regarding her relationship with the witness; rather than answering those questions, the claimant discontinued her claim.

The claimant’s DWP records were secured, and reviewed by the defendant’s medical expert.  These revealed a far more extensive history of medical problems than had been disclosed by the claimant, either to her own expert, or to the defendant’s expert. 

The Judge found that, had our expert not seen those records, he might have been misled that the claimant’s symptoms were attributable to the accident.

The claimant also advanced a claim for care, which was at odds with her account given to the medical experts.

The claim was discontinued a month before trial, and before the claimant could be compelled to give more information about her relationship with the witness. 

The defendant applied to have the issue of fundamental dishonesty addressed by the Court, even though the claimant had discontinued.  It was not necessary to set aside the claimant’s discontinuance.

Following a day’s hearing before DJ J Peters on 22 August 2023, the Judge accepted that the claim was fundamentally dishonest; the Judge found:

  1. The claimant was fundamentally dishonest on the liability issues; the accident did not occur as alleged by the claimant on the defendant’s premises, and the witness was not credible;
  2. The claimant had been fundamentally dishonest in her presentation of her medical history to the experts, in a clear attempt to affect the presentation of her case in a way to that potentially adversely affected the defendant in a significant way – her injury and care claims were fundamentally dishonest.

The Judge disapplied QOCS,[1] and awarded the defendant its indemnity costs in excess of £25,000.  The claim will now be passed to DWF’s dedicated recovery team to pursue those costs from the claimant.

James Burge, head of counter fraud at Allianz Commercial, commented: “Despite not ending in a trial, the UK legal system shows that there are ways and means to ensure that people dishonestly filing personal injury claims against our customers, do not get away scot-free. The results highlight the tenacity that we have across our teams and partners in ensuring that our honest customers are supported each step of the way”

Jonathan Head, director with DWF, said: "This outcome is a testament to the teamwork between Allianz, DWF, Allianz's customer and the team of legal and medical experts working with us. It showcases that, even where claims are withdrawn, defendants can recover their costs – claimants should think again, if they believe they can abandon a false claim, and walk away without consequence."

[1] Qualified One-way Costs Shifting – a shield which usually protects unsuccessful claimants from having to pay defendants’ costs

Further Reading