By: 2 December 2019
Cycling collision claimant found fundamentally dishonest

A personal injury claimant who stated he had ‘stopped all running’ and was only doing ‘a bit of cycling’ has been found fundamentally dishonest at Bristol County Court.

The claimant, Andy Airey from Yate in Bristol, was involved in a collision while cycling to work in 2015 and claimed £60,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, medical treatment and ‘handicap on the open labour market’.

Fault for the collision was admitted by the QBE-insured driver, but the insurer questioned causation for the injury.

Investigating on behalf of QBE, insurance specialist law firm BLM’s fraud intelligence team found numerous social media posts contradicting Airey’s claim. This included a wealth of Facebook and Strava running, cycling and triathlon posts, before and after the collision and the medical examination supporting his claim in March 2016.

According to Ben FitzHugh, BLM’s director of intelligence, this involved a 10-mile run four weeks before the examination, a 100-kilometre bike ride two weeks before the examination, a 20-mile bike ride on the day of the examination itself, and a 102-mile bike ride seven weeks afterwards.

BLM requested a finding of fundamental dishonesty against Airey, citing the running and cycling social media posts as evidence of him misleading the medical expert who had supported his claim. On seeing the evidence, the claimant’s medical expert accepted that the claimant could not have sustained his injuries as a result of the road traffic collision and that the onset of a degenerative issue was more likely.

The claimant discontinued his claim for damages as a result, but BLM sought a finding of fundamental dishonesty in view of his conduct. The case proceeded to Bristol County Court on 21 August of this year.

At trial, Judge Ralton found the claimant’s motivation throughout the claim was to link his knee problems with the collision. Airey was found to be fundamental dishonest and was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs, likely to be in the region of £40,000.

Overall, the savings to QBE amounted to approximately £145,000 in damages and legal costs.

Representing QBE, BLM associate Edward Smethurst said: “This is another lesson to fraudulent injury claimants and practitioners alike as to the importance of a claimant’s social media presence. Although fault for the traffic collision was not contested, claiming an impaired ability to run or cycle whilst posting significant evidence to the contrary online will come back to bite you.”

Jon Radford, claims manager in the special investigation unit at QBE, added: “Gross exaggeration of genuine injuries is just one of the many types of fraud that is prevalent in the insurance industry. We are pleased with the fundamental dishonesty outcome of this case and hope it serves as a clear deterrent. Fraud remains a serious issue, but by working to prevent these types of cases, we can help keep our customers safe from similar behaviour.”