Every right-thinking person would agree that those guilty of fundamental dishonesty in their pursuit of personal injury claims should leave court empty-handed. As a High Court ruling showed, however, defining exactly what is meant by 'fundamental' is far from straightforward.
The case concerned a man who claimed to have suffered neck, shoulder and head injuries in a road traffic collision. Following a trial, a judge found that his contention that he had sustained a bang to the head, which caused swelling over a period of three to four days, was fundamentally dishonest. On that basis, the entirety of his personal injury claim was dismissed.
Ruling on his appeal against that outcome, the Court noted that, for the purposes of the appeal, there was no challenge to the judge's finding that his claim in respect of the head injury was dishonest. The sole issue before the Court, therefore, was whether that dishonesty was 'fundamental', within the meaning of Section 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
Upholding the appeal, the Court noted that his claim in respect of the head injury had not formed part of his case as originally pleaded but only emerged later in oral and written evidence. References to the alleged injury did not substantially affect the way his case was presented and motor insurers defending the claim were not exposed to a risk of significant prejudice.
In reinstating the man's claim, the Court found that there was no scope for a finding that such a minor and very short-lived injury could properly be characterised as being fundamental or going to the root of his case. The judge was therefore wrong to find that he had been fundamentally dishonest. In reaching that conclusion, the Court emphasised that it was not making light of the seriousness of making up evidence.