June 1, 2015

What happens if a claimant is “fundamentally dishonest”?

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In any personal injury claim, it is necessary for the claimant to prove that a defendant breached their duty of care and that this caused the claimant injury. This means that a claimant must show firstly, that a duty of care was owed to them by the defendant who may be another road user, or an employer or an owner or occupier of land or property. They must then show that the acts or omissions of the defendant have caused their injury.

Once this has been proved, a claimant will also need to show the financial losses they have suffered or will suffer as a result of their injury.

What is meant by a “fundamentally dishonest” claimant?

Whilst the majority of claimants are honest in recounting what happened to them and the losses they have suffered, we have all read reports of the few who perhaps exaggerate the extent of their symptoms or the financial losses they have incurred. We have also seen many reports in the press about claimants who go as far as to falsely suggest they have been injured or even set out to deliberately cause themselves harm in order to pursue a claim. It is these claimants who may be found to be “fundamentally dishonest” under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

The term “fundamentally dishonest” is not defined by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. It is therefore at the discretion of the judge hearing the case to decide if a claimant will fall into this category.

How does a judge decide if a claimant is “fundamentally dishonest” and what is the penalty?

A judge will look at whether a claimant has been “fundamentally dishonest” in pursuing their personal injury claim if the defendant applies to the Court asking for it to be considered. The defendant would need to state that they believe the claimant has either exaggerated or lied about some element of their claim. This could be in relation to:

  1. how the injury occurred
  2. the nature of the injury
  3. the severity of any ongoing symptoms and the amount of time they lasted
  4. the level of financial losses the claimant has suffered as a result.

If the judge is satisfied that the claimant has either been dishonest or has exaggerated elements of their claim, they can order that the claimant’s entire claim be struck out. This means that the claimant will no longer be able to continue with their claim and will not be awarded compensation.

Additionally, a judge can order that the claimant will have to pay the defendant’s costs in relation to the failed case.

The only relief (possible remedy) that is provided to a potentially “fundamentally dishonest” claimant under this new Act is if a judge were to decide that “the claimant would suffer a substantial injustice if the claim were dismissed”. In this instance, the judge may decide not to strike out the whole of the claim but may still penalise the claimant.

While we have yet to see how the court will interpret what is meant by a “fundamentally dishonest” claimant, as specialist personal injury solicitors, we support a crackdown in exaggerated and false claims.

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