Self-employed builder found fundamentally dishonest following accident and ordered to pay costs

Horwich Farrelly, alongside Admiral Insurance, has successfully defended a fraudulent personal injury claim pleaded at more than £1.2million.

The initial claim brought by Ashley Millward, a 36-year-old self-employed builder / handyman, from Cardiff, South Wales, was dismissed after surveillance footage proved his injuries were exaggerated.

On 7 September 2015, Millward was thrown from his motorbike after being hit by the defendant’s car as it emerged into his path on Western Avenue in Cardiff. As a result of the accident, Millward suffered a complex fracture in his lower back as well as dislocation which required surgery and insertion of metalwork. He also suffered a kidney laceration and injuries to his liver and ribs as well as psychological problems.

After telling an orthopaedic surgeon in August 2016 that he had been unable to work since the accident, and a consultant psychiatrist, in April 2017, that he had been forced to close his newly opened business as he could not manage lifting or bending, Millward claimed a total of £1.2m for his injuries, care and loss of earnings.

Admiral had reason to believe Millward was exaggerating the extent of his injuries however, so we subsequently undertook surveillance that identified him continuing to work as a handyman. Further, the document he produced to quantify his loss of earnings was found not to be a genuine account of his pre-accident earnings.

Presented with this evidence in a three-day trial in March 2021 at the High Court, Cardiff, the claim was dismissed with HHJ Harrison finding Millward fundamentally dishonest in that he withheld a true account of his ability to work.

In their ruling, the judge said: “…any sensible analysis of the evidence all points to him [Millward] doing some handyman maintenance work, and that is precisely the work that he says he was unable to do.

“…[his] statements up until he saw the video evidence were relatively clear in asserting that after early 2017, he did not do any of this work. It would have been open to him in a witness statement to say that he had returned to very light activity for friends and family and that he did not earn anything like his pre-accident potential. But that is not what he did…In my view, the evidence… is not consistent with anything other than Mr Millward not being truthful… and the untruthfulness was maintained in the schedule of loss.”

The genuine element of Milward’s claim was valued at just over £74,000 but, even though he will be able to offset this amount against Admiral’s costs, his net outlay is still estimated to be around £90,000. He will also have to repay the interim payments made by the insurer of around £43,000.

Alex Wilkinson, Partner and Head of our Large Loss Fraud Team, said: “Horwich Farrelly lead the market in terms of findings of Fundamental Dishonesty. We have secured more findings than any other firm and this continued success is a result of the close collaboration between our large loss, fraud, credit hire and casualty departments.

“Even though elements of this claim were legitimate, the claimant’s dishonesty in pursuit of an even larger payout was found to be sufficient to engage s.57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, meaning the entire claim was dismissed. The insurance industry should approach suspected dishonesty in high value claims with a degree of confidence that courts are alive to the clear problems they pose. The courts are more than willing to dismiss claims in their entirety when dishonesty is established.”

Stuart Cook, Head of Technical Claims at Admiral, said: “Our investigations in this claim clearly showed that Mr Millward had exaggerated his claim and was being dishonest regarding how his injuries affected him and his ability to work.”

“Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime, it affects all motorists through higher premiums and we hope the outcome of this case sends a warning that Admiral will fight dishonest claims. In partnership with our legal teams, we will exercise the law to its full extent to help us defend these claims and discourage fraudulent and dishonest claimants.”