Amy Mol­loy goes un­der­cover with in­jury lawyers

■ Un­der­cover con­sul­ta­tion with firm ad­ver­tis­ing ‘no win, no fee’ ■ Con­cern at no pun­ish­ment for fraud­u­lent claimants

Irish Independent - - Front Page - Amy Mol­loy

A SO­LIC­I­TOR pro­vid­ing per­sonal in­jury ad­vice said that even fraud­u­lent claims are hardly ever pur­sued for costs.

The ad­vice was given dur­ing an un­der­cover con­sul­ta­tion with a firm that is ad­ver­tis­ing ‘no win, no fee’ le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion – de­spite the Law So­ci­ety hav­ing strict reg­u­la­tions against this.

The sce­nario pre­sented to the so­lic­i­tor was a slip and fall in a Dublin night­club. The so­lic­i­tor said: “The night­club is bring­ing you in and charg­ing you for drinks, so on their back be it.”

The so­lic­i­tor went on to de­scribe how two clients who fraud­u­lently claimed “didn’t end up pay­ing costs”.

The same law firm ad­ver­tised a ‘no win, no fee’ ad­vice – even though reg­u­la­tions pro­hibit this. Ad­ver­tis­ing this type of rep­re­sen­ta­tion was banned in Ire­land be­cause it con­sti­tutes “am­bu­lance chas­ing”.

In­de­pen­dent.ie asked the so­lic­i­tor in ques­tion if the le­gal ad­vice given “en­cour­ages fraud­u­lent claim­ing” and has not re­ceived a re­sponse.

The firm had changed its site to say ‘no win, no fee fully ex­plained’ af­ter the Law So­ci­ety con­tacted it ear­lier this year and has since changed it again to in­clude ‘no win, no fee’ in the hy­per­link. The firm also did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment about its ad­ver­tis­ing.

Con­cerns about a lack of pun­ish­ment for fraud­u­lent claimants were re­cently raised af­ter a €60,000 per­sonal in­juries claim by a 25-year-old Dublin home care worker was dis­missed as it emerged that it had arisen out of “a con­trived traf­fic ac­ci­dent”.

Head of fraud for Aviva In­sur­ance Rob Smyth said af­ter the case: “Every ef­fort will be made to en­sure we re­cover our costs and we will co-op­er­ate with gar­daí to en­sure that any­one in­volved in staged ac­ci­dents faces crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.”

Mr Smyth said Aviva is cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing 1,200 cases from 2017, which it be­lieves to be fraud­u­lent.

“They cer­tainly go largely un­pun­ished be­cause by and large, apart from hav­ing their cases dis­missed, there is no sanc­tion,” he said.

Shane English BL acts for de­fen­dants in per­sonal in­jury cases, and has un­cov­ered a num­ber of ex­ag­ger­ated claims in the past few years.

One case was that of Rita Mili­novic, who was in­volved in a mi­nor col­li­sion in a car park. Ms Mili­novic claimed she had to give up her job as a wait­ress and could no longer work out in the gym.

Her case col­lapsed when Mr English showed the court a col­lec­tion of pic­tures which she had posted on­line since the ac­ci­dent, in­clud­ing ex­er­cis­ing in a gym and pos­ing at body sculp­ture com­pe­ti­tions.

“In most cases, award­ing costs against them is use­less be­cause the plain­tiff has no money in any event, so it makes no dif­fer­ence to them,” Mr

English said.

“Some solicitors on be­half of in­sur­ers will pur­sue them and reg­is­ter judg­ments so that if they win the lottery or if they come into money, it may come against them. It can make life dif­fi­cult for them, but in terms of get­ting your money, in 90pc of cases that never hap­pens.”

A study car­ried out by Lib­erty In­sur­ance re­vealed 82pc of Ir­ish driv­ers be­lieve a ‘claims cul­ture’ is more preva­lent in Ire­land to­day ver­sus 10 years ago, while 88pc think those who sub­mit fraud­u­lent claims should face harsher penal­ties.

How­ever, le­gal pro­fes­sion­als are con­cerned that those who fraud­u­lently claim are de­ter­ring peo­ple with gen­uine in­juries from claim­ing as they fear be­ing tarred with the same brush.

A ho­tel worker told how she hasn’t made in­sur­ance claims for le­git­i­mate in­juries be­cause of bo­gus claims made by oth­ers and is afraid about how it might be viewed by oth­ers.

De­scrib­ing her most re­cent in­jury, the worker said: “The gas grill was faulty and it shot gas up into my face, singe­ing my eye­brows and eye­lashes and burn­ing my cheeks. I didn’t log the claim; I just got on with it and now use a pen­cil to fill in my eye­brows.”

In 2016, the to­tal awarded by the courts for per­sonal in­jury claims was €147,145,000 in the High Court; €17,314,830 in the Cir­cuit Court and €4,059,854 in the Dis­trict Court.

Most cases go un­pun­ished be­cause there is no sanc­tion

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