It is increasingly common for accident victims to be accused of fundamental dishonesty in exaggerating their compensation claims. However, as a judge's ruling in the case of a delivery driver who tripped on a garage forecourt showed, those who make such serious allegations always bear the heavy burden of proving them.
The driver was delivering sandwiches to the garage when he tripped on an uneven area of concrete, spraining his left ankle. He asserted that the injury had caused enduring pain and disability, psychiatric injury and substantial loss of earnings. The garage's operator swiftly admitted liability for the accident, but subsequently asserted that his claim for more than £67,000 in damages was deliberately exaggerated.
The operator, who contended that the claim was worth no more than £5,000, applied for an order summarily striking it out on the basis that it was fundamentally dishonest, within the meaning of Section 57(1)(b) of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. In doing so it relied on, amongst other things, expert medical evidence and covertly shot surveillance footage of the driver going about his daily life.
In rejecting the application, however, the judge noted that there was an issue as to whether the surveillance evidence was admissible and that the views of medical experts were not all one way. It was only in very rare cases that a finding of fundamental dishonesty would be made on a summary basis without a full hearing. Fairness demanded that the driver should have the opportunity to promote his claim by giving oral testimony and presenting all the evidence in his favour at a trial of the action.