If you exaggerate any part of your personal injury claim, you could be found guilty of fundamental dishonesty. Your claim could then be struck out by a court, meaning you cannot claim compensation – even if you have genuinely been injured. You may even have to pay the other side’s costs.
So long as you remain truthful during the course of your claim, there is no reason why you should not be awarded compensation. We will get you the financial support you deserve. Contact our personal injury solicitors now to start your claim. We act for clients across England and Wales.
What is the fundamental dishonesty?
You must not lie about any part of your personal injury claim. You may be persuaded to exaggerate certain aspects of your story in order to increase your compensation settlement. You might even tell a few white lies about your symptoms, for fear that medical experts will not believe that your injury is real. However, these kinds of falsehoods are illegal and amount to a legal concept known as ‘fundamental dishonesty’.
There is no set definition of fundamental dishonesty. It can be any significant misrepresentation or exaggeration made during the course of a personal injury/medical negligence claim. The fraudulent aspect of a claim might relate to your general damages (which are awarded for pain and suffering) or your special damages (which are awarded for your financial losses). For example, it could be that you:
- Inflate the true extent of your symptoms
- Lie about what you can and cannot do physically
- Say that you cannot work when you can
- Mis-state the extent of your financial losses
How does the defendant know?
You should not lie about any aspect of your claim for the simple reason that it is illegal.
Furthermore, if any aspect of your claim is fraudulent, then it is highly likely that you will be caught. Remember, defendants, do not want to pay more compensation than they have to. They are very careful to investigate every element of a claim, particularly any aspects that they find suspicious.
As part of these efforts, you could be placed under secret surveillance. This is when the defendant hires a company to take video footage of you during your daily life. You might be filmed exercising, socialising with friends or going to work. This will be extremely problematic if you have said that you cannot do these things.
The defendant may also gather evidence from your social media accounts, and point towards discrepancies in your witness statements. For example, you might claim in one witness statement that you cannot walk without an aid, yet you might later contradict yourself in a second witness statement.
The defendant will gather all this evidence to discredit your claim, raising questions over the authenticity of your physical and financial injuries.
What happens if I’m caught exaggerating my claim?
If the defendant obtains evidence that disproves any part of your claim, then it will be very difficult to proceed with the case. As your solicitor, it will put us in a very difficult position, significantly hindering our negotiating power. It may be possible to agree a reduced settlement with the defendant, meaning you are awarded compensation for the true extent of your damages.
However, the defendant may wish to take a robust stance. If so, your claim will end up before a judge. If there is any indication that you have fraudulently exaggerated part of an injury claim, then your case will be in serious jeopardy. It is very likely that your claim will be struck out, meaning you lose your right to any compensation. You may also be ordered to pay the other side’s costs.
There have even been some cases where the defendant has subsequently pursued criminal proceedings against the claimant. In the case of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust v Elder, the claimant was sentenced to five months in prison for exaggerating the impact of unnecessary surgery. In the case of Axa Insurance v Masud, the claimant was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for exaggerating his financial losses.
Nevertheless, fundamental dishonesty is not fatal to every single personal injury claim. The court does have some discretion, as the claim does not have to be struck out if it would cause the claimant to suffer ‘substantial injustice’. If this is applicable to your case, then you may be awarded compensation for the genuine elements of your claim, minus the other side’s costs.
There has also been a case in which the judge found that while there had been a “degree of embellishment”, the claimant was not guilty of fundamental dishonesty. This occurred in the work accident claim of Smith v Ashwell Maintenance. Mr Smith stated that a fall at work had caused a permanent and debilitating ankle injury. The defendant gathered various evidence to disprove Mr Smith’s assertions. Yet the judge decided that although Mr Smith’s reliability was questionable, he was not dishonest. Rather, he had exaggerated the extent of his injuries in order to convince, rather than deceive. She suggested this was a by-product of the defendant’s forceful resistance to the claim.
Avoiding fraud in an injury claim
Despite the findings in Smith v Ashwell Maintenance, you should not rely on the hope that a judge will forgive any embellishments or little white lies. You must always remain truthful during the course of a personal injury or medical negligence claim.
We know that you might be concerned about the success of your claim, especially if the defendant denies any wrongdoing. But do not worry – this is not unusual and we are highly adept at handling such tactics. We specialise in personal injury law and will get you the compensation you deserve, even if the defendant is putting up a fight.
So long as you remain truthful, we can help you access justice. Otherwise, the main person you are damaging is yourself. If the judge finds an element of fraud in your case, you could be denied the chance to get any compensation whatsoever. This will be hard to bear if you have genuinely been injured through no fault of your own. Initially we all give you free legal advice.
If you have been injured and someone else is to blame, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We specialise in personal injury claims and can act on your behalf.
You can call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.