Amy Molloy goes undercover with injury lawyers
■ Undercover consultation with firm advertising ‘no win, no fee’ ■ Concern at no punishment for fraudulent claimants
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
“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