False bicycle whiplash claim

A teacher’s whiplash claim has been found fundamentally dishonest as inconsistencies and lack of supporting evidence cast doubts over her account of being almost knocked off her bicycle by a van.

Gita Chaudhari alleged that a groundworker drove his works van into her whilst she waited at traffic lights in London in October 2014. The van driver maintained there had been no incident, but recalled sounding his horn at a cyclist who was blocking his way by failing to move off with the traffic.

Miss Chaudhari pursued a claim against the groundworker and his employers, alleging that she had sustained whiplash-type injuries as well as an exacerbation of pre-existing conditions. His employers had motor cover from AXA Insurance which instructed the fraud team at Clyde & Co to act on his behalf.

During the proceedings, the claimant said she had gone straight to the police station to report the incident but the police had no record of a report. She claimed to have seen her GP a few days later, when the appointment was seven weeks later. She also said she took a week off from her job as a teacher but no evidence supported that. Moreover, she didn’t disclose she was involved in an apparently similar incident a year later.

The matter was heard in January before the Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court, with evidence from both parties and from the groundworker’s colleague who had been a passenger in the van.

In court, Miss Chaudhari changed her version of events again, even complaining for the first time of pain in her left leg. The District Judge struck out her claim for fundamental dishonesty and ordered her to pay the defendant’s legal costs of £12,500.

“Personal injury fraud is often associated with crash-for-cash gangs, but it can also take a more opportunistic shape, like in this case. We are glad that this was met with severity. Every time a dishonest claim is struck out, honest drivers save money on their car insurance.” — Tom Wilson, Counter Fraud Manager, AXA Insurance

 “Fraudulent claims can take many forms and it’s crucial that this type of dishonesty is weeded out wherever possible to discourage activity of this kind. This type of case typifies the approach we take, which is to advise against settling if there is evidence of any fraud. AXA was supportive of this approach and crucially ran the case on the basis of the evidence.” — Blanche Richards, Senior Associate at Clyde & Co

AXA Insurance has added Miss Chaudhari to the Insurance Fraud Register.