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Offside! Claimants caught in the net in suspected criminal conspiracy

Five accidents involving 31 suspected fraudulent claims, all occurring within 9 days of each other, were part of a suspected wide-scale criminal conspiracy to defraud RSA. The accidents were said to have all taken place within a 4 mile radius in Cardiff. At the centre of the claims was the same accident management company, with many of those putting forward the suspected claims being represented by the same solicitors, even though those solicitors were based in Cheshire. The same engineer also inspected the vehicles, said to have been driven by the innocent motorist.

Over a number of months, intelligence was gathered against 15 Claimants who had issued proceedings against RSA and its policyholders,. As a result of those enquiries, and after RSA had filed a defence alleging fraud and conspiracy against all 15 Claimants, all of the claims were struck out by His Honour Judge Seys Llewellyn QC, on the basis that:

  • The claims are fundamentally dishonest; and/or

  • Were an abuse of process; and/or

  • The Claimants obstructed the just disposal of the proceedings

Nigel Hughes and Colin Vickers, who led the investigation, look at the background to the claims and some of the intelligence that was gathered, leading RSA to conclude that the accidents and the individuals involved in them were linked and that the claims were dishonest.

Background

The streets of Cardiff acted as the backdrop to a number of suspected staged accidents which took place over a 9 day period in September 2013. The Claimants, linked by social media connections and, in some instances, by virtue of the fact that they had played semi-professionally for the same South Wales football teams, were all said to be innocent victims of the negligent driving of five motorists. In four of the five accidents, the at fault motorist was alleged to have failed to give way at a side street, striking the vehicle travelling on the main road.

Overall, there were a number of strikingly similar features about the accidents and the way in which the policies covering the at-fault drivers were incepted.

Suspected fraud at policy inception

Of the five at fault motorists, four shared similar features, including the fact that the insurance policies were incepted:

  • Shortly before the accident took place;

  • By a male:

    • with an Eastern European name;

    • employed in a menial job;

    • who proved untraceable at the given policy address;

    • Against an old, low value vehicle.

The involvement of the accident management company

The same accident management company (“AMC”) featured in all accidents, providing the Claimants with recovery, storage and other accident management services. In one of the accidents, which involved a rear end shunt, the same AMC was said to have recovered two of the vehicles involved in that accident and were said to be arranging the repairs to the third vehicle.

In all five accidents, the AMC recovered the “innocent” driver’s vehicle to their storage yard. The director of the AMC had numerous connections on social media to the Claimants and had played semi-professional football with one of them, even seeking to obtain an insurance quote at that Claimant’s address.

Inconsistent accident damage

The same vehicle assessors provided engineering evidence in respect of all the vehicles that were said to have been driven by the Claimants. Their reports featured similar errors, such as the failure to identify pre-existing damage. In two of the accidents, the assessors were engaged to carry out their inspections even before the solicitors were instructed.

The damage demonstrated on the majority of the vehicles involved was, in any event, inconsistent with the accident circumstances advanced by the Claimants, so that the magnitude and the pattern of damage to the vehicles simply did not fit. The inconsistencies included:

  • Airbags being deployed manually in one vehicle to make it appear as if they had been deployed in the alleged collision.

  • Airbags failing to deploy in a vehicle which had allegedly been involved in a collision where the airbags would have been deployed had the collision occurred as alleged.

  • Forensic examination of two vehicles that revealed that one of them had been stationary at the point of collision, when it had been contended that it was moving.

Comment

The Claimants, who were all largely represented by the same, linked law firms in Macclesfield, all presented claims for personal injury supported by medical evidence. Through the use of sophisticated intelligence techniques, the Claimants were demonstrated to share many mutual links on social media sites.

The numbers of links and shared connections between the Claimants, the AMC and the similar features between the claims generally, led RSA to allege that the claims were fraudulent and that the connections and similarities were such that they could be discounted as being mere coincidence.

Having pleaded fraud in the defence, the claims were ultimately struck out. Had the suspected conspiracy succeeded, RSA could have been faced with a total payment of c£600,000 for claims and costs. Whilst the claims were brought under the auspices of the QOCS regime, the order  made by the court means that RSA is free to enforce its legal costs against the Claimants in each action, with the costs in total having been assessed by the court in the sum of £110,400.00.  

Contact

For further information about this operation and the protagonists involved, please contact Nigel Hughes on 0151 907 3329, or by email at nigel.hughes@dwf.law.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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