Personal injury claimant's £60,000 QBE Insurance fraud exposed by Facebook and Strava running posts

29 Nov 2019

A personal injury claimant who stated he had ‘stopped all running’ and was only doing ‘a bit of cycling’ has been found fundamentally dishonest at Bristol County Court.

The claimant, Andy Airey from Yate in Bristol, had been involved in a collision whilst cycling to work in 2015 and was claiming £60,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA), medical treatment and ‘handicap on the open labour market’. Fault for the collision was admitted by the QBE insured driver, but the insurer questioned causation for the injury.

Investigating on behalf of QBE, insurance specialist law firm BLM’s fraud intelligence team found numerous social media posts contradicting Mr Airey’s claim. This included a wealth of Facebook and Strava running, cycling and triathlon posts, before and after the collision and the medical examination supporting his claim in March 2016. According to Ben FitzHugh, BLM’s director of intelligence, this involved a 10 mile run four weeks before the examination, a 100 kilometre bike ride two weeks before the examination, a 20 mile bike ride on the day of the examination itself, and a 102 mile bike ride seven weeks afterwards.

BLM requested a finding of fundamental dishonesty against Mr Airey, citing the social media posts as evidence of Mr Airey misleading the medical expert who had supported his claim. Upon seeing the evidence, the claimant’s medical expert accepted that the claimant could not have sustained his injuries as a result of the road traffic collision and that the onset of a degenerative issue was more likely. The claimant discontinued his claim for damages as a result, but BLM sought a finding of fundamental dishonesty in view of his conduct. The case proceeded to Bristol County Court on 21 August 2019.

At trial His Honour Judge Ralton found the claimant’s motivation throughout the claim was to link his knee problems with the collision. Airey was found to be fundamental dishonest and was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs, likely to be in the region of £40,000. Overall, the savings to QBE amounted to approximately £145,000 in damages and legal costs.

Representing QBE, BLM associate Edward Smethurst said: “This is another lesson to fraudulent injury claimants and practitioners alike as to the importance of a claimant’s social media presence. Although fault for the traffic collision was not contested, claiming an impaired ability to run or cycle whilst posting significant evidence to the contrary online will come back to bite you.”

Jon Radford, Claims Manager, Special Investigation Unit at QBE added: “Gross exaggeration of genuine injuries is just one of the many types of fraud that is prevalent in the insurance industry. We are pleased with the Fundamental Dishonesty outcome of this case and hope it serves as a clear deterrent. Fraud remains a serious issue, but by working to prevent these types of cases, we can help keep our customers safe from similar behaviour.”

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Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to customers of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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