Compensation is for accident victims who deserve it and judges come down hard on those who dishonestly embellish their claims. In one case, a man who deliberately and cynically lied in an attempt to win more than £1 million in damages after a road accident was ordered to pay a heavy fine and given a suspended prison sentence.
There was no doubt that the man suffered serious orthopaedic injuries in the crash, which cost the other motorist her life. However, in pursuing his inflated claim, he contended that he could hardly walk, could not drive or carry heavy weights and could not look after his two young children.
Covert surveillance by insurance investigators gave the lie to such claims as he was filmed walking with ease, carrying heavy shopping and driving his children on a 180-mile round trip to the seaside. He was ultimately awarded just over £95,000 by a judge who found that he was guilty of deliberate play-acting.
The insurers subsequently launched proceedings against him and, in finding him guilty of contempt of court, the High Court emphasised that false compensation claims strike at the heart of the administration of justice. But for the surveillance, he might well have succeeded in obtaining a far larger award than he was entitled to.
He had previously turned down the insurers' £350,000 offer to settle his claim and, after obtaining much less than that after a trial, legal costs were likely to leave him with little or nothing of his award. He received a three-month prison sentence, suspended on condition that he pay a £10,000 fine within a year.