Social posts of extreme sports pursuits earn fraudster fundamental dishonesty ruling

09 Apr 2019

BLM on behalf of Allianz Insurance has successfully secured a costs order of £4,800 and a finding of fundamental dishonesty against claimant Paulina Cieluszek after she was caught posting on social media with facts that conflicted with her evidence for a road traffic accident compensation claim. Declaring severe pain symptoms from the accident, Paulina was found to have been fundamentally dishonest in the presentation of her claim following cross-examination at trial when evidence of her social media activity was presented, painting a very different story of her mobility during the prognosis period.

A seemingly routine road traffic accident, the insured vehicle was changing lanes when it collided with the claimant’s vehicle in December 2016. Paulina alleged she had sustained personal injuries as a result of being a passenger in the vehicle involved in the accident and submitted a personal injury claim against Allianz. Her claims included; experiencing constant pain for nearly five months and taking painkillers to manage the discomfort, over a year of pain reported for her shoulder and neck which impacted her day-to-day life from lifting, brushing her hair to halting her daily fitness regime when previously she trained for three hours a day.

Despite stating such extreme pain, Paulina did not seek medical treatment which rang alarm bells for Laura Twist, the BLM lawyer instructed by Allianz to investigate the claim. Collaborating with BLM's specialist fraud intelligence team, an in-depth investigation was conducted of Paulina’s social media accounts where further discrepancies in Paulina’s evidence were identified. BLM discovered that Paulina had posted a variety of activities on her social media accounts when she had claimed to be suffering from pain that impacted her day-to-day life. Paulina had shared social media updates in respect of her snowboarding and scuba-diving activities, all undertaken during her claimed prognosis period. Furthermore, Paulina delayed for almost three years before submitting her claim to Allianz and later stated that the delay was due to feeling vulnerable and fear but that she wanted justice. BLM and Allianz took a robust approach to defending this claim, requiring Paulina to attend trial and prove her claim.

The evidence gathered by BLM was presented to the court where Paulina’s claims were not only dismissed but she was found to have been fundamentally dishonest after her explanations did not make sense resulting in the court not believing she was not injured as she indicated from the accident. Ironically, Paulina’s desire for justice was met, although not as she envisaged.

Commenting on the finding, BLM solicitor Laura Twist said: “This was a really interesting case as there was only one possible interpretation of the facts once we had the posts from the claimant’s social media accounts which is not always possible when trying to determine fundamental dishonesty. We live in a digital world where people document life events often with great detail. Paulina failed to understand that the level of detail she published publicly would be scrutinised in court against her claims. Ultimately she sabotaged her claim through her own testimony. “This is a great example of BLM’s collaboration in action with Allianz in the continuing fight against fraudsters. The decision should act as a clear deterrent against submitting exaggerated personal injury claims because not only will they not be unable recover any expenses but more likely end up with a hefty costs order against them.”

Fraud manager, Nick Kelsall from Allianz Insurance added: “This case highlights how naïve some people can be when it comes to posting activity on their social media accounts. This ruling shows how serious the courts will take any level of fraudulent activity and will not hesitate in punishing fraudsters. We will continue to work together with law specialists, such as BLM to ensure that we robustly investigate and defend any claims that are dishonest.”

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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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