New case law will help insurers combat the increasing number of fraudulent claims

The case of Imtyaz Patel, Ilyas Patel, Sadik Patel and Usman Cola v Shahid Ali [2006] involved a genuine claims that was tainted by fraud.

Ali, the defendant, collided with the rear of Patel's vehicle, when it was forced to brake suddenly due to a vehicle pulling out in front of him. This vehicle was never identified but while there were suspicions that this was a semi-staged accident, it could not be proven. The claimant attended his solicitors the day after the accident and the defendant subsequently received four letters of claim. Upon receipt, the defendant immediately telephoned his insurers to advise that there were only three people in the vehicle and not four.

The defence was amended, following a conference with the insured and his wife with counsel, to plead fraud on the basis of there being a phantom passenger and that although the accident occurred, the fact that the three possibly genuine claims were supporting the fraudulent claim, all claims were tainted with fraud and should fail.

Cross-examination revealed sufficient inconsistencies for the judge to call into question the credibility of the four claimants. She called upon counsel for both parties to assist her in decision-making and asked if there were any cases that she could turn to to direct herself in making her finding. Two cases were identified and are referred to in the judgment.

The claimants were ordered to pay the defence costs. The claimant's solicitors ceased acting for them and the claimant's were pursued in person. Costs were recovered from the individuals.

This case will hopefully be the first of many more that will be reported and, although it is a County Court decision, may be of assistance to both lawyers and the courts alike. Anyone who has ever brought this kind of case to trial will know the difficulty faced in trying to find case law to support their arguments and assist in guiding the judiciary in making their decision. We hope this case will help, as a deterrent, in combating the increasing numbers of fraudulent claims.

' Alan Jacobs is a partner at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary UK