A very public case between the insurers Zurich and Mr Shaun Summers, a former employee, held last week in the Supreme Court threw up some interesting points for discussion about the nature of personal injury claims process.
Mr Summers initially filed for over £800,000 in compensation after an accident at work claim but the county court found the bulk of his claim to be exaggerated and awarded him with only £88,716. Zurich chose to appeal the case, arguing that is a part of the case was found to be fraudulent, the entire case should be struck out. The Supreme Court held that this was a possibility, but it should not be applied in Mr Summers’s case.
But should fraudulent cases be seriously considered by the courts or should a breach of personal injury claims process mean you forfeit the chance to have your view heard?
A Burden on the Courts
The rise of no-win-no-fee lawyers has placed a real brace on courts and many cases which would not have been taken seriously ten years ago are being heard regularly in courts. Occasionally these claims are fraudulent or at least grossly exaggerated and the court has wasted valuable time and resources on hearing these cases.
The fact that the Supreme Court did rule that cases could be thrown out if found fraudulent in part should act as a deterrent for speculative personal injury claims which clog up the courts, preventing genuine cases from being given the proper attention.
The Proper Outcome
The difficulty is that in the Zurich case, it’s hard not to find the final judgement just. Mr Summers clearly did have a claim and was due compensation which, at the end of the day, he received. A Supreme Court which came down hard upon over-exaggerated claims might end up distorting the proper outcome in cases where compensation was really just.
Equally, fraud is rarely a black-and-white issue: usually a court has to assess the evidence from a neutral perspective to see whether or not a case if fraudulent in the first place. To deter over-exaggerated claimants would undoubtedly put unnecessary extra scrutiny on cases where large sums were claimed just for fear that they might have been fraudulent.
As with most legal matters, the line between time-wasting and a genuine mistake is fine one. Though the Supreme Court does and should reserve the right to throw-out and, if necessary, prosecute real fraudsters, the age-old principle of the presumption of innocence should prevail. The courts should be able to assess a genuine personal injury claim without prejudice.
Clough & Willis provides a sympathetic and efficient personal injury claim service for individuals unfortunate enough to have sustained a personal injury.
Clough & Willis Solicitors is proud to be one of the few personal injury solicitors within Greater Manchester to have corporate accreditation from APIL, recognising the firm’s commitment to their stringent requirement.