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Big brother always watching...

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I saw an interesting article yesterday of a 58-year-old mother of 13, potentially facing prosecution and imprisonment for grossly exaggerating her claim for personal injury against Haringey Council.

She suffered a knee injury in a tripping accident. Proceedings were issued and the claimant rejected an offer to settle her claim, pursuing her case to a trial. She was claiming in the region of £740,000 in total.

Her claim was later struck out by the Court, who found that the Claimant had attempted to conceal the extent of her pre-existing injuries, which came to light as a result of undercover surveillance. The Court found that her claim would have been worth just £1,500. She was found to have attempted to pervert the course of justice. She denies any wrong doing.

It got me thinking…we need to advise our clients of this risk.

A leading insurance company has reported recently that in the last two years, GPs have seen a rise in the number of patients exaggerating their injuries. 92% of the 250 GPs that took part in the survey said that whiplash and back injuries were the most commonly exaggerated.

While in the vast majority of cases, a claimant may never face surveillance footage or have to face allegations in this respect, surveillance is bound to occur more frequently than we believe.

In reality, any surveillance will only come to our attention if it attacks a claimant’s credibility.

As a result, in all higher value claims, and even in those cases when injuries have been sustained in fairly innocuous circumstances, claimant’s need to be warned of the risk of surveillance.

There are of course some rules that govern what can and can’t be filmed, and consequently, footage can only be in a public place, not within the claimant’s home.

What should a claimant do?

  • make sure all facts submitted in Court documents, such as the Claim form and on the schedule of your loss are accurate and true
  • don't say you can't do something when you can; instead set out the extent to which you are restricted
  • be clear about when you require assistance to do things and then only do it assisted unless medically advised otherwise
  • keep your solicitor updated about changes in your ability or symptoms

Ultimately, the moral of the story is: Don’t tell lies.

By Niall Helferty