Zero Tolerance towards Claimants that Lie

29 Sep 2011

Recent cases have shown that the Courts are becoming more willing to pursue Claimants for contempt of court if they are found to have made false representations during a trial in order to obtain more compensation.

In the case of Motor Insurers’ Bureau v Shikell [2011] the Claimant was given a one year prison sentence for contempt of court after it was discovered that he lied about the extent of his injuries.    


The Claimant initially submitted a claim valued at £1.3 million following a Road Traffic Accident which included a substantial loss of earnings claim as well as a serious personal injury. The Defendant had suspicions regarding the extent and severity of the Claimant’s alleged disability, which were proved well founded as covert surveillance footage showed the Claimant to be an active and competitive footballer. The Defendant disclosed the video evidence and subsequently made a global offer of £30,000 which was accepted.


Following the settlement, the Motor Insurance Bureau sought, and was given permission, to bring proceedings for contempt of court against the Claimant.


16 counts of contempt were alleged and the Claimant was found to be guilty of 14 of these. The Court held that he had deliberately misled the Court in order to increase the likely award of damages that he would receive.  


This case also showed that family members or friends who assist the Claimant in his or her deception can be equally guilty of contempt of Court. Here, the Claimant’s father also received a prison sentence for corroborating his son’s claim when he knew the information to be false. 


The case of Carol Walton v Joanne Kirk [2009] also demonstrated the Court’s willingness to prosecute a dishonest Claimant for contempt of court where the extent of an injury is exaggerated. In this case, the Claimant had asserted a claim value of over £750,000 by alleging a long-term and substantial disability. Following disclosure of the Defendant’s surveillance evidence showing her shopping and walking with ease, the Claimant accepted an offer of £25,000 in full settlement of her claim.

The Defendant insurer subsequently pursued contempt of court proceedings, alleging 25 counts of contempt. The Court found that although the Claimant had genuinely suffered some injury, she had misled the Court as to the nature and extent of her disability and had signed statements of truth on documents knowing that the contents were false. She was found guilty of contempt and give a £2,500 fine.


Other recent cases have highlighted that in contempt of court cases the evidence must show, to the required criminal standard, that the Claimant had acted with dishonest intent in pursuing a false claim.


These cases show that whilst exaggeration of a claim does not automatically lead to contempt of court proceedings, the Courts are willing to prosecute claimants who act dishonestly. This demonstrates their zero tolerance approach towards insurance fraud and ensures the integrity of the justice system is preserved.