To Absent Friends…Part II – RTA Fraud

colin_richmond By Colin Richmond

Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company Ltd v Thumber [2014] EWHC 3051 (QB)

When I wrote about this case in early September the full judgment was yet to be published. It is now available on Lawtel under reference AC9800582.

It is worth spending a short time looking at some of the comments made by the judge. By way of a refresher, this was a road traffic accident involving a vehicle valued at £6,000, with credit hire charges of £130,000. The claim was found to be fraudulent, with the Claimant sentenced, in his absence, to 12 months imprisonment, following committal proceedings commenced by the Defendant insurer.

At the original trial, the Claimant sought an adjournment on the basis that the First Defendant (the other driver) was not in attendance. The application was refused. The Claimant then discontinued his claim. In his judgment, Bean J states that, “A clearer implicit admission that the claim was bogus would be hard to find.” It seems fair to say that a more damning judicial statement about a claim would be hard to find.

At the first hearing of the committal application, the Claimant applied for an adjournment on the bases that he had only heard of the case one week previously and that he wanted to obtain representation. It is clear that the judge did not believe what the Claimant said regarding the late notice, but he adjourned nonetheless, warning that the only reason he could think of as to why the matter would be adjourned again would be proper medical evidence of the Claimant being seriously ill.

The Claimant did not attend the subsequent hearing. His brother produced a medical certificate from the Claimant’s GP stating that, “I have assessed your case on 24 June and because of the following condition, a depressive episode, I advise you that you are not fit for work.” The judge noted that under the section headed “Comments including functional effects of your condition” the form had been left blank.

Despite his brother suggesting that the Claimant’s mental state had, in fact, significantly deteriorated, and that the Claimant may be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, the judge simply did not accept that he had evidenced that fact that he was unfit to attend court, saying that, “If the general practitioner who signed the sick note was going to tell me that, he should have done so in the certificate. I dare say that Mr Thumber is depressed, but that is not a reason for not attending court.”

It is worth noting that, in relation to the claim itself, the judge commented that, “It is perhaps the ludicrous level of credit hire charges that has been Balraj Thumber’s undoing.” He went on to describe the case as being, “the plainest possible case of a fraudulent claim.”

There is probably not a great deal to add here. The judgment makes fairly depressing reading, particularly for honest claimants and their representatives, however the insurer is to be commended for taking a firm line and seeing the matter through to its conclusion.

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