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DWF acts in dishonesty case that draws attention to deliberate layering practices

20 February 2023

DWF, the global provider of integrated legal and business services, in collaboration with Aviva, has successfully secured a fundamental dishonesty finding at Trial, shining a spotlight on the deliberate layering practice of companies and individuals who obtain financial benefit from it.

In the case, Khan v Aviva, five people were involved in an accident. The driver of the claimant vehicle was a mother together with her four children as passengers.

Despite the claimant taking no time off work or seeking medical attention as a result of a motor vehicle accident, she and her four children were recommended cognitive behavioural treatment by a psychological expert. The treatment was provided by Med Room Solutions Ltd (MRSL), it being MRSL who had directed the claimant to the psychological expert in the first instance.

DWF, assisted by Mr Roger Andre of Deka Chambers, sought to show that the parties had lied to the Court regarding their connections and that proceedings were brought for the specific financial benefit of the claimant solicitors and MRSL. Additional evidence showed that the directors of the claimant solicitor's firm and MRSL were brothers.  

Judgment on the case, handed down in November 2022, dismissed the claim with a finding that the claimants exaggeration was fundamentally dishonest and that the director of MRSL had lied to the Court. The Judge found the similar fact evidence of DWF's Intel team to be powerful and persuasive in demonstrating a similar pattern of action in numerous cases involving the same firm of solicitors with the judge specifically finding, "In my judgment, this is clear evidence of the layering of this claim and others as alleged by the Defendants. The Judgment specifically referenced the claimant's dishonest collusion with the solicitors, medical agency and other parties confirming that this was indeed a fundamentally dishonest claim. 
The dismissal of the lead claim and abandonment of the four passenger claims waiting in the wings has resulted in savings for Aviva in excess of £60,000 with the added potential of cost recovery. 
Since the advent of fixed recoverable costs, which set the amount of legal costs that a winning party can claim back from the losing party in civil litigation, insurers have seen a gradual expansion in the layering of claims that were previously straightforward.
Claims Layering will often feature treatments in various guises, such as physiotherapy or CBT with the further addition of psychological and other non-soft tissue injuries, with the specific purpose of increasing the value of compensation and the consequential increase in the costs to parties behind the claims. The practise saw a further increase after the Civil Liabilities Act and the Whiplash Reforms were introduced.

Miles Hepworth, Partner and counter fraud legal expert at DWF
said : "We have worked closely with Aviva for some time in challenging this ever growing practice of claims layering and disrupting the behaviours of those enablers behind such claims. This is a significant judgment and one of the first to properly raise awareness to the industry and the judiciary of the wider practices that go on in an environment in which claims are less and less about claimants and more and more about the entities behind the claims."  

Rob Lee, Director of Casualty Claims, Aviva, said, “The sharp practice of costs layering has been evident for some time but unfortunately more and more cases are being identified which display questionable behaviours in this area. This is a welcome judgment which rightly raises the profile of this emerging practice. Disrupting these behaviours is important and this terrific result has been achieved through true collaboration between Aviva and DWF.”   

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