Trials and tribulations: a glance at recent trials involving fraud rings
Ruth Needham, director of fraud rings leads a team of 48 all specialising in defending fraudulent claims. Here she recaps on a few recent successes at trial.
In my eight years of dealing with fraud rings I have come up against most arguments! However it still pains me to see claimant solicitors pushing ahead on claims that are quite clearly suspect. Over the past few months our team have enjoyed great success at trial saving impressive amounts for our clients. In an environment where fraud is still prevalent it is important to continue with a strong stance against fraudulent claims and assist insurers in raising awareness of this ongoing problem.
Applying to case manage claims together often highlights to judges the similarities and obvious concerns with the cases. The below examples illustrate the power this offers:
Involving induced claims, the cases all featured the same key hire, storage and recovery companies. Four claims in the ring litigated and were case managed together and tried consecutively in August. After three trials, the fourth trial was pushed back to September. Despite a challenging judge, the trials were going in our favour and prior to the fourth trial commencing we received a drop hands offer from the claimant solicitors. Due to our confidence in our defence we decided to press on. However, again the claimant solicitors contacted us to provide notice of discontinuance on all four trials. All of the cases were pre-LASPO entitling us to costs. This result saved our clients in region of £400,000.
16 accidents were linked together all involving three policyholders. The three policyholders could be linked via addresses, Facebook and having been involved in accidents together. Most of the claims were repudiated, however three litigated and were case managed together with our defence pleading fraud. Claimant solicitors responded to the defence along the lines of ‘whilst the policyholder may be involved in fraudulent accidents, this does not prevent him having a genuine accident, and this is a genuine accident’. An argument that may bear some weight had there been only one claimant…but a very unlikely story involving three!
One of the claimants was able to provide a very credible story and evidence resulting in a settlement, however we continued to use our concerns to obtain a saving of 52% of the reserve. The two remaining cases proceeded to trial.
At trial, the claimant solicitors included numerous documents in the trial bundle which had not previously been disclosed, and despite our objections the judge allowed them. They also made an application to rely upon witness evidence from their passenger despite her not being present – again this was successful. On the morning of the trial we were faced with yet more undisclosed documents in support of their claim and an additional witness statement… all of which was allowed as evidence. Finally, on the first day of trial we also received a claim form and particulars for two passengers.
Despite the bleak outlook, the trial proceeded and judgment was given on the third day. HHJ Mitchell dismissed both claims. Whilst the finding of fraud was not made in the judgment, HHJ Mitchell was of the view that the policyholders were clearly involved in taking out fraudulent policies for the purpose of putting forward fraudulent claims and he was not satisfied that the claimants had discharged their burdens to prove that they had been involved in genuine accidents.
The claimants were ordered to pay costs. This result saved our clients approximately £200,000 (£170,000 of which would have been claimant solicitor’s costs).
Three claims handled by our fraud rings team were case managed alongside five other claims before HHJ Godsmark QC. All of the claims were associated with one another as they arose out of induced collisions and were linked to the same individual. The first of our claims was struck out whilst directions were ongoing – resulting in a saving of over £30,000.
The remaining two (along with the other five cases) proceeded to trial in August. Whilst the individual evidence relating to the claims was heard by way of a number of mini-trials, the generic evidence and links between all claims were considered throughout the length of the trial and closing submissions were presented on a generic basis.
In delivering his judgment, HHJ Godsmark QC gave consideration to the links between the claims and commented “what I do regard as significant is the remarkable coincidence that members of what has been described to me as a relatively small community should experience road traffic collisions the circumstances of which bear similarities…” he continued “…pulling all of these strands together I have come to the conclusion that the defendants have proved, on the balance of probabilities, that there has been an exercise in fraudulent road traffic collisions…and that this has involved the deliberate inducement of rear end collisions with a view to making claims for compensation. There are just too many coincidences, each compounded upon further, for this to be innocent.”
The two claims handled by Keoghs together with two of the other linked claims were found to have been deliberately induced in order to manufacture a claim for compensation. The claims were dismissed as fraudulent which resulted in savings of over £144,000 on the two Keoghs claims alone.
Along with the savings achieved in the above examples, we hope that by taking these types of claims to trial fraudulent claimants will think twice about committing this type of offence in future.
What these cases highlight are the opportunities that exist in the current regime to ensure that we are not paying organised crime. The courts are very much alive to these types of claims and the judiciary are not afraid to find fraud, award costs or consider further sanctions.