Claimants sentenced to six months following fraudulent insurance claim
Published 13 September 2016
On 21 July 2016 four individuals were given six month custodial sentences in the Nottingham District Registry arising from claims made following a road traffic collision in September 2012.
The Original Claim – Kartel & three others v Stanmore Quality Surfacing Limited
All four Claimants made claims for compensation following a rear end collision. The insured driver was driving a seven tonne truck down the slip road of the A40 in the Hillingdon area of West London. The BMW in front of him braked suddenly and without warning.
Investigations undertaken by Allianz lead them to reject the claims. The evidence of the insured driver was suggestive that the collision was deliberately induced. A claim was issued. Upon the instruction of DACB Beachcroft substantial further investigations were completed and it was formally alleged that the claims were fraudulent.
At the same time as the Defence was amended the Court identified this claim as one of five claims of similar fact arising from rear end collisions. The claims were case managed together to a ten day trial with cross insurer exposure. Intelligence work undertaken by DAC Beachcroft as the matter progressed revealed the existence of a fraud ring in the Lincoln area suspected to be staging car accidents in the London area as part of a wider criminal network. Natalie Randall of DACB intel team was the dedicated analyst and liaised closely with Lincolnshire Police.
Having described the evidence given by all four claimants as “lies” at the original trial in August 2015, His Honour Judge Godsmark QC, found all four claims were fraudulent. He said “Those proven and fundamental lies mean that I cannot accept the evidence of any of the Claimants in this case, not only as to who was in the car but as to the circumstances of the accident and claims of injury”.
The Committal Application
Permission was sought and granted in February 2016 to issue committal proceedings for contempt of Court pursuant to CPR Part 81.
DAC Beachcroft successfully opposed jurisdictional arguments at the permission hearing with the claim remaining in the Queen's Bench Division of the Nottingham District Registry and crucially before the same trial judge who had expressed a clear steer at the permission hearing by stating "The first point was that this is not the most serious of frauds and of no great value. This should attach no weight. The sum is not great but what has become a concern is a large number of dubious claims in road traffic accidents. The question of fraudulent claims is of great public interest. The Court of Appeal has stated that court time should be used if the allegations are serious. If the claim is fraudulent it is in the public interest to warrant proceedings"
The Value of the Company Camera
This case boiled down to one photograph. It was a photograph taken at the scene by an employee of the company. Nine photographs were taken of the road, vehicle damage and those present in the other vehicle. One photograph was of an individual referred to in the proceedings as 'the mystery man'. He was sat in the back seat. He was not one of the Claimants. Piotr Kartel lied about being on the back seat. His family supported his lies. Their evidence was tainted.
The lesson to be taken from this case is that insurance fraud is firmly on the judicial radar. HHJ Godsmark pulled the five claims together of his own volition and eventually sentenced four failed Claimants to six months in prison. He saw the case from beginning to end.
This is one of few committal applications arising from a fraudulent insurance claim that was contested. In many committal cases the Claimants either admit their guilt for purposes of mitigation or ignore the proceedings and are sentenced in their absence.
We also expect this case to be considered in future applications for committal when sentencing is considered. Diana Kartel was pregnant and Piotr Kartel allegedly in poor health. The Court also heard that the Diana Kartel and Igor Kartel had three other young children who were being cared for in Lithuania. Despite this HHJ Godsmark ruled that none of these factors were sufficient to prevent an immediate custodial sentence. Comment was also passed in the Judgment about the failure of each Claimant to face up to what was alleged.
It was necessary to prove the lies beyond reasonable doubt which is the criminal burden. With the existence of a photograph and wider intelligence the claims were defeated. The outcome of this claim should serve as a lesson to anybody thinking about bringing a dishonest claim against an insurer.
Georgia Court, counter fraud partner at DAC Beachcroft acting for Allianz, said: "For the court to impose four such lengthy sentences should send a very clear warning to those thinking of making fraudulent claims that the consequences of their deception can put them behind bars."