John McNulty, solicitor with Oxford law firm Turpin & Miller looks at cases of exaggerated compensation claims
For several years now, the civil courts have been coming down very heavily on claimants who exaggerate compensation claims.
Last month, the criminal courts jailed a cyclist who fraudulently sought more than £3m in damages by “telling a pack of lies” about injuries he suffered when he was hit by a lorry.
I recall this issue arising many years ago, when I acted for an amateur boxer who injured his right hand while working on a building site, through no fault of his own.
I sought substantial damages on his behalf, which included the loss of future wages he would have earned as a professional boxer.
I produced testimonials and evidence from well known boxing promoters; all of whom attested that he “would have been a contender”.
Offers were made to settle during the course of the case, which were rejected.
The case fell apart the day before the trial, when the defendants produced video evidence of my client lifting heavy machinery with his “damaged” hand.
In the case involving the cyclist, there was no dispute that Mr Khan had suffered a serious head injury when he was hit by the lorry.
However, he made a good recovery from the injuries and by the time the matter reached court, his claim was relatively modest.
Mr Khan however, managed to convince a doctor that he had reduced brain function and mobility and the insurers offered to settle for £75,000.
He rejected this and pursued a massive claim to cover what he alleged were 24-hour care needs, an extension to his home to accommodate his disabilities, holidays, travel and language therapy costs.
The claim exceeded £3m.
Mr Khan’s parents supported the claim and gave evidence that he could no longer look after himself.
Unfortunately for Mr Khan, secret video footage had been taken, showing him crossing the road, visiting his friends and enjoying a normal social and family life.
When confronted with the video footage, Mr Khan then accepted the initial £75,000 offer.
He was heavily penalised in costs and would likely not have seen much of that money.
And he was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment.
Very often, doctors observe the client as they approach and leave the examination room. I have read a report where the patient walked in with walking sticks and then later, as she approached her car, dropped the sticks and was observed by the doctor to bend over and pick them up. These disparities will be reflected in the medical report and the case will not likely succeed. A case was related to me recently where a roofer claimed spinal injuries and video evidence showed him climbing a roof and carrying materials up a ladder.
At the trial the claimant suggested that it was not him but his brother-in-law, as they had exchanged jackets inside the house. The judge enquired as to whether they had also exchanged trousers. The case was lost.