DAC Beachcroft obtains fundamental dishonesty ruling against 'phantom passenger' fraudster

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DAC Beachcroft obtains fundamental dishonesty ruling against 'phantom passenger' fraudster

Published 31 May 2018

A claimant who was seeking damages for whiplash after his vehicle was driven into by an Aviva policyholder has had his claim dismissed, on appeal, as he lied about how many people were in his car at the time of the accident. The successful appeal was handled by the Counter Fraud team at international law firm, DAC Beachcroft, on behalf of its insurer client Aviva.

The claimant alleged that on 14 October 2015 Aviva's policyholder had reversed her BMW 118d into his Vauxhall Vectra at a give-way junction. Aviva accepted liability for the collision but had concerns with the claimant's allegation that he had three passengers in his vehicle when the accident happened. Aviva's policyholder was adamant that there had only been one passenger in his car.   

The claimant issued proceedings against Aviva's policyholder on 21 December 2016. His three alleged passengers submitted claims notifications forms to Aviva on the same day but, significantly, they did not issue proceedings. 

Despite concluding that the claimant had lied about the two extra passengers in his car, the trial judge at first instance refused to dismiss his claim under s57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act  2015 (the Act) for being linked to 'phantom passenger claims'. This was because the three passengers' claims had remained pre-issue and therefore did not constitute 'related claims'.   Instead, the judge ruled that the claimant had been injured as alleged and was therefore entitled to £4,400 in damages. 

Aviva and DAC Beachcroft appealed this decision, arguing that the pre-issue claims of the three alleged passengers were 'related claims' for the purposes of s57 of the Act.

The appeal judge agreed. In an important decision which clarifies the scope of s57, Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke ruled that the definition of 'related claim' in s57(8) encompassed the pre-issue claims that had been submitted to Aviva. She dismissed the claim and ordered the claimant to pay Aviva's costs of the entire action.

Catherine Burt, head of Counter Fraud at DAC Beachcroft, said: "We are delighted with HHJ Clarke's judgment. Had pre-issue claims been excluded from the definition of related claims this would have significantly diluted the impact of s57 CJCA 2015. This is precisely the type of claim the legislation was intended to address."

Rob Lee, Aviva’s head of Casualty Claims, said: “Phantom passengers are seen as an easy way for fraudsters to increase the pay out from a claim, so it’s great to see the Court take tough action. Bogus claims such as this only increase premiums for honest motorists and so we will continue to fight for justice."

Authors

Catherine Burt

Catherine Burt

Newcastle

+44 (0)191 404 4042

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