After an automobile collision, the injured parties will normally seek recovery against the at-fault party. It is possible for accident victims to suffer paralysis, nerve damage, and disfigurement that inhibits their ability to work and causes long-term pain. Some parties with relatively minor or even no injuries believe that inflating the claims can result in a large award of free money. The law seeks to make plaintiffs whole; it does not attempt to provide a lavish lifestyle for any injured party. When making a claim against an insured party or any party in court, the injured party must ensure that it truthfully represents the amount of damages. Misrepresenting the extent of an injury can have several serious consequences.
At an absolute minimum, a false claim will undermine the claimant’s credibility. A claimant who exaggerates the extent of an injury, for instance, makes a back injuries workers compensation claim, or who combines a false claim with a legitimate claim in order to inflate the damages, may inhibit recovery for the legitimate claim. The original party, the insurance company, and the jury will all view the entire claim as false. In many cases of personal injury, the plaintiff will be forced to testify as to pain, limited mobility, and any other physical problems that they have. If all of this testimony is viewed as suspect, it may be nearly impossible for the plaintiff to recover.
A plaintiff who testifies that they suffered from a back injury may be telling the truth, but if the plaintiff is shown to be lying about a back injury, the plaintiff will have little credibility. This assumes that the plaintiff pursues the case in the first place. In most circumstances, diminished credibility will be the least of the plaintiff’s issues.
The criminal justice system in the United States thrives on plea bargains. Defense attorneys who represent defendants facing prosecutors with strong evidence are often forced to plead down the charges for their clients rather than face a hopeless trial. Most criminal cases never proceed to trial, as defendants agree to plead. This is due to relatively long statutory sentences and a variety of lesser offenses that most defendants did not even know existed being added to the charges. In a fraud case, the prosecution has a wide array of tools at their disposal.
Fraud generally occurs where the defendant deceives another for personal gain. There are related statutes for less important matters, such as larceny by trick. In the case of a malingering accident victim, the charges can be more serious. An act of insurance fraud occurs when a defendant commits a fraud against an insurance company. In most cases, an accident victim will be making a claim against an insured party. When the insurer investigates the claim, the insurer may discover that the claimant is either not injured or is exaggerating the severity of the injury. In these cases, the insurer may file a police report, and charges may be filed.
Insurance fraud is a felony with different penalties depending upon the jurisdiction. Unfortunately for the claimant, it may be one of many felonies committed by a malingering party. Wire fraud and mail fraud can easily occur if a claimant uses electronic communications or the mail system to commit fraud. Plaintiffs who attempt to convince others to lie on their behalf, such as doctors or family members, may commit an act of conspiracy to commit any of these crimes. Each crime is a felony, and conspiracy to commit any of these crimes is also a felony. In some cases, proving a conspiracy to commit the offense may be easier than proving the offense itself.
Deception under oath is another matter. Plaintiffs who submit documents to the court usually swear under penalty of perjury that the entirety of the document is true to the best of their knowledge. Plaintiffs may also testify under oath. Whether the deception comes through a false affidavit or a blatant lie while under oath, a false claimant may commit perjury if he or she lies about a material matter in the case. The plaintiff must have the intent to lie to commit an act of perjury.
As with the conspiracy charges discussed above, it is possible for a defendant who convinces another person to commit perjury to be held criminally liable. Subornation of perjury is a separate offense with which the claimant may be charged.
There are other reasons why plaintiffs should not malinger. Individuals who have similar injuries to those falsely claimed may be dissuaded from filing claims or be viewed suspiciously by the legal system. Additionally, false claimants and their attorneys may be cited for filing frivolous claims. Plaintiffs who fail to represent their injuries in a claim honestly may find themselves worrying about more than just medical bills.
Georgina Clatworthy is a legal writer who regularly posts on topics of law and consumer issues. She contributes this article on behalf of The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C who handle cases such as back injuries workers compensation and other personal injury claims. Those who are injured due to someone else’s negligence should seek professional legal advice so they can fully understand the nature of their case and the amount of damages they can legally seek to claim.