08 February, 2012
Forbes Insurance Department represented Calderdale MBC in a tripping claim brought by Kashif Mohammed who alleged that he had tripped as a result of a raised paving stone. A breach of duty was conceded but he was put to strict proof that the accident occurred as alleged.
Mohammed's claim formed part of a series of suspicious claims against Calderdale MBC relating to alleged tripping accidents during 2008-2009 first identified by the Council's insurance officers and its insurers, Zurich. These claims all involved young Asian males from a particular area of Halifax who were, investigations revealed, directly or indirectly linked to one another. One line of investigation revealed links between claimants to convictions under the Terrorism Act.
At trial, the judge commented on the 'remarkable speed' of the claimant in looking to commence his claim. He had instructed an accident management company and solicitors much sooner than he had sought medical treatment.
The claimant's direction of travel was slightly unusual and it was noted that in order to approach the tripping edge as alleged, the claimant would have needed to have made what the trial judge described as an 'almost militaristic' 90 degree turn after crossing the road.
The claimant contradicted himself as to whether it was dark or light at the time of the accident, could not recall the weather at the time and could not expand on simple details of the alleged accident circumstances.
In providing his judgment, the trial judge acknowledged the difficulties faced by defendants in finding tangible evidence of fraud or conspiracy in suspicious tripping claims. He recognised therefore that the correct course of action for defendants in such matters was to put the claimant to proof and make the person bringing the claim persuade the court that the accident had occurred as alleged. The trial judge concluded that his overall impression in this matter was that the claimant was not a reliable witness and he could not therefore be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the accident had occurred as alleged. The claim was dismissed and costs were awarded against the claimant.
Forbes Anti Fraud Unit, working closely with Calderdale MBC and their insurers, Zurich, had gone to some lengths to undermine the probability of this accident having occurred. There remains the inevitable difficulty in proving that something didn't happen. It is however possible with detailed and focussed enquires that claims can be undermined by contradicting the claimants own evidence. The devil, as ever, is in the detail.
For further information please contact Philip Harding on 01254 662831 or email firstname.lastname@example.org