Horwich Farrelly action finds football fan claimants to be fundamentally dishonest, ordered to pay £12,000

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Horwich Farrelly has helped First Bus prove that two football fans were fundamentally dishonest in making personal injury claims against the company following a minor traffic collision.

Claims made by 53-year old Neil Muscroft of Pontefract and Martin Costello, 51, of Leeds are the first of more than fifty submitted to First Bus, following a very minor collision, to have reached trial.

After considering evidence submitted by Horwich Farrelly, including CCTV footage from the bus itself, the judges in both cases ruled that the claims were fundamentally dishonest, and ordered the pair to repay total legal costs of £12,000.

The two claims concerned a minor incident which took place in November 2013 where a First Bus packed full of football supporters – many of whom were standing – was on its way to Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium.

At a roundabout, the bus became slightly too close to a Ford Fiesta travelling in front and there was a minor collision. There was only minor damage to the two vehicles and the occupants of the Fiesta – a retired couple – were entirely unharmed.

However, First Bus subsequently received more than 50 claims for personal injury compensation and expenses from bus passengers in the following weeks and months.

Given the very low speed at the time of the collision (10 mph) the First Bus internal claims team, Transportation Claims, working with Horwich Farrelly’s counter fraud team, investigated a number of the claims received including those of Muscroft and Costello, which were worth around £4,200 and £2,400 respectively.

They revealed significant inconsistencies across the two claims with compelling evidence submitted during the two trials held at Leeds County Court in April and June 2016.

Muscroft alleged the force of the collision had thrown him to the ground causing him to suffer injuries to his neck and shoulder for eight to ten months.

However, statements from the occupants of the Fiesta confirmed that the collision was extremely minor in nature and could not feasibly have caused such injuries. In addition, CCTV footage from the bus showed passengers were so tightly packed that there would not have been room for Muscroft to fall.

Costello was clearly shown on the CCTV from the bus twice holding his neck whilst smiling in the moments after the incident. This was despite his claim stating that the pain only began the following day. Once challenged in court by the judge, the claimant struggled to explain his actions.

Mark Hudson, fraud partner at Horwich Farrelly, said: “The CCTV footage of the second claimant holding his neck, yet clearly not in any pain immediately after the collision, suggested to us that he was joking with friends about whiplash, and possibly even about making a claim – another indicator that this claim was worth investigating further. Alongside other parts of his statement which contradicted the CCTV evidence and witness statements, and his failure to produce statements from the witnesses he named, provided enough evidence for the judge to conclude this was indeed a dishonest claim.

“This sends a clear message to other would-be fraudsters that a fake claim is simply not worth it. These claimants have ended up paying almost double the amount for which they claimed – a costly mistake they are likely to regret for some time to come.”

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Marek Handzel

Marek Handzel is the editor of Claims Magazine. Marek welcomes articles, letters, or feedback from readers and can be reached by emailing marek.handzel@barkerbrooks.co.uk