28 September, 2011
Forbes Insurance Department represented Tameside MBC in a claim brought by the Claimant who alleged that he had suffered injuries as a result of a tripping incident in 2007.
The Claimant alleged that he had fallen down a hole adjacent to a grid, whilst taking a detour to the bus stop and suffered a serious injury to his left leg and ankle. There were conflicting statements as to whether the cause of the alleged injury was an open grid, or a hole next to a grid.
The Claimant produced photos of the hole at the trial, which had been taken by his solicitor when visiting the scene of the accident. When cross examined on the location of the accident he stated that when retracing his steps of the route taken he came across this hole and later admitted to not knowing what had caused the accident, a hole or an open grid.
The accident was alleged to have happened at some point before midnight as the Claimant had been attempting to catch the last bus home having been at his sister's. It was not until 7am that an elderly couple were said to have come to his aid. They called a taxi for the Claimant and he was dropped off at his home at around 9am. The intervening period, between the time of the accident and the elderly couple coming to his aid, was accounted for by the Claimant alleging he was unconscious. The Claimant said he was reluctant to attend hospital, but was finally persuaded by his mother and an ambulance was called around midday.
The A&E records, relating to the attendance after the accident, suggested that the Claimant had been out drinking the night of the accident. This was also repeated in the medical notes of the consultant treating the Claimant on the ward. However, the Claimant stated he only had a couple of lagers whilst watching videos with his sister. His sister was not called to give evidence
The medical notes made no reference to the significant period of time the Claimant had spent unconscious. The Judge found this surprising. He considered that the intoxication issue may have been linked, which would have explained the gap in time between the accident and arriving home. In the end, the Judge made a finding that the accident was unlikely to have happened as early as alleged.
In reaching his judgment the trial Judge found that there were many unsatisfactory elements in the case and that the case rested on the uncorroborated evidence of the Claimant. Serious questions arose as to his credibility throughout the case.
Perhaps the most interesting of which were the Claimant's status updates on Facebook, which were uncovered during investigations undertaken by Forbes anti-fraud team. Several entries recorded the Claimant as going off to work and being unable to work due to the weather. These entries were all the more important considering the significant claim for loss of earnings the Claimant put forward and the allegation that his injury restricted him to a sedentary type of work. This culminated in a schedule of loss in the region of £500,000.
The Judge made a finding that the Claimant had concealed from his legal representatives, his counsel and the court the casual work he had undertaken.
The Judge in dismissing the case felt the Claimant's credibility was sufficiently diminished that he had failed to discharge the burden on him to establish the circumstances of his accident on the balance of probabilities. The Claimant was ordered to pay the Defendants' costs of the action.
This case demonstrates the court's willingness to accept evidence gathered from social media sites such as Facebook when any adverse entries can cast doubt on the credibility of a Claimant.
Several inconsistencies were noted in the Claimant's account, especially when referenced with the A&E records which were sufficient to cast significant doubt as to the Claimant's credibility.