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Judge warns fraudster that whiplash claims are not a 'lucky dip' in LV= case

Press release: 23/02/2015

A Portsmouth-based fraudster who tried to claim compensation after he received a cold call from an accident management company saying money was ‘waiting for him’, has been brought to justice by LV=.

Michael Figg, a 32-year-old carpenter, was driving along Burrfields Road in Portsmouth on 13 September 2012 when another driver was temporarily blinded by sunlight and drove into his van. The other driver immediately admitted that the accident was their fault and notified her insurer, LV=, the same day.

A claims handler from LV= telephoned Mr Figg to arrange for his van to be repaired and during this call, Mr Figg confirmed that he had not been injured in the accident. The van was repaired within a matter of weeks and the claims handler had another conversation with Mr Figg where he repeated that he had no injuries. Both telephone calls were recorded, which Mr Figg had been made aware of at the start of each call.

Mr Figg claims he received a cold call from a solicitor in early 2014 asking whether he had ever been injured or involved in an accident and Mr Figg said he had. He was then told that ‘there was money waiting to be awarded to him’ and so Mr Figg agreed to begin a claim for compensation in the region of £1,000.

Mr Figg went to a doctor on 25 March 2014 to get a medical report to substantiate his injuries in court. The doctor’s report stated that there were no injuries to be seen at that point but that Mr Figg claimed he had been thrown violently during the accident and that his injuries had affected his quality of life afterwards. Mr Figg also claimed that in the two weeks following the collision, he had had trouble sleeping, had taken painkillers every two hours and that he had been reduced to ‘light duties’ at work. However, the doctor stated that he had could only go on what Mr Figg told him as it was eighteen months after the event.

On 18 February 2015 the case was heard in Portsmouth County Court, where LV= submitted the tape recordings of Mr Figg claiming that he had not been injured in the weeks immediately following the collision. LV= also presented evidence about the incident proving that it was a minor accident and it was unlikely that Mr Figg had been injured.

District Judge Ackroyd dismissed Mr Figg’s claim, saying that it was only a minor collision and that he would be surprised to find any injury whatsoever. He then went on to say that Figg had clearly seen this as an opportunity to get some compensation. Mr Figg’s claim was found to be fundamentally dishonest and he has been ordered to pay over £5,000 in legal costs to LV=.

I am satisfied he knew exactly what he was doing and have no hesitation in finding he was fundamentally dishonest. I would like it to be widely known that for people who try to bring this type of claim it is not some lucky dip.

District Judge Ackroyd

In this case, Mr Figg clearly stated that he had not been injured in the weeks immediately following his accident, so it was clearly not credible of him to subsequently claim he had been injured some eighteen months later. Mr Figg was fooled into believing that he would easily get a compensation payout for claiming he had an injury, when he did not, and has instead been left with a criminal record and a large bill. LV= takes a hard line on fraud, investigates all suspicious claims and pushes for the toughest sentences for those who are prosecuted, in order to protect our honest customers. We hope this sends a message to other fraudsters to deter them from committing this type of crime.

John O’Roarke, Managing Director for LV= car insurance

For far too long claims for whiplash have been perceived as being ‘easy money’. We have seen so many cases where claimants have suggested that when first contacted they were told ‘money was waiting for them in an account’ and all they had to was ‘put their name to a claim and they would receive payment even if they were not injured’. We have been working hard with LV= to stamp out this fraudulent and opportunistic behaviour. Claimants need to know that when facing insurers like LV= fraud is not a victim-less crime but one where there could be serious consequences, such as in this case where the claimant has now to pay many thousands of pounds.

Ronan McCann, Fraud Partner at Horwich Farrelly (representing LV=)

LV= research with GPs in January 2015 revealed that:

  1. Doctors report that they see 116,000 people every month they suspect are inventing or exaggerating an injury in order to claim compensation[1].
  2. Close to a million GP hours are wasted every year on fraudsters using NHS doctors to make an insurance claim[2].
  3. Eight in ten (78%) UK car accidents where one driver accepts liability involve a compensation claim for whiplash - twice the international average. By comparison, only 35% of Dutch claims include a whiplash element, 31% of Spanish claims and 30% of French claims[3].

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[1] According to the latest figures from the British Medical Association (published in July 2014) there were 43,000 sessional GPs practicing across the UK. The average reported number of cases seen by each GP per month is 2.7. 2.7 x 43,000 = 116,100. NB – this is almost certainly an underestimate as the GP numbers does not include Locum GPs (there is no official figure for the number of Locum GPs operating available but is expected to be in the range of 15,000-17,000).

[2] According to the latest figures from the British Medical Association (published in July 2014) there were 43,000 sessional GPs practicing across the UK. GPs spend 1.72 hours on average seeing patients they suspect of inventing or exaggerating an injury to claim compensation every month. 1.72 x 43,000 = 73,960 hours per month or 887,520 hours a year (close to one million).

[3] Figures sourced from the ABI’s submission to the Transport Select Committee’s Inquiry into Whiplash (Dec 2013 www.abi.org.uk ). ABI used their own data in conjunction with figures submitted by the Danish Insurance Association, Insurance Sweden, Dutch Association of Insurers, Unespa, Fédération Française des Sociétés d'Assurances, ANIA.


For further information please contact:

Vanessa Chance, vanessa.chance@lv.com, 0208 256 6996 / 07947 380074


LV=

LV= employs 6,000 people and serves over 5.5 million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK's largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trade unions.

Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.