False personal injury claim sees Southampton man ordered to pay over £7,700 in legal costs

£2,400 personal injury claim made despite claimant not even being in the vehicle at the time of incident

A Southampton man’s personal injury claim has been kicked out of court after it was revealed he wasn’t even in the vehicle at the time of the incident.   Mr Leszek Rogalinski, 57, had stated he was sitting in his parked car when another vehicle rolled into his, allegedly causing six months of lower back pain. However, evidence gathered by specialist law firm, Horwich Farrelly, proved the construction worker had lied about being injured and was ordered to pay insurance company Horizon’s legal costs of £7,744.

The claim followed a minor incident in September 2013 when the defendant, a local bank worker, did not fully apply the handbrake of her Ford Focus as she parked on Mayfield Road, close to the University of Southampton’s Highfield campus.

There was no disputing that the Ford had travelled around ten metres and had made minor contact with Rogalinski’s unoccupied Audi A6. However, Rogalinski, who had been washing his car at the time, sought to take advantage of the situation by lying about being in the vehicle at the time of the bump, going on to submit a £2,400 claim for back pain to the defendant’s insurer, Horizon.

Given the conflicting accounts between the two parties, Horizon instructed law firm Horwich Farrelly to probe the claim further. Their counter fraud team’s investigation revealed a number of cracks in Mr Rogalinski’s version of events, which became clear to the judge once presented in court. 

This included the defendant being able to recall very specific details of the incident, coupled with photographic proof showing very minor cosmetic damage to the Audi which, even if the vehicle had been occupied, could not feasibly have caused the alleged injuries.

Rogalinski’s claim reached trial at Southampton County Court on 5 August 2016. Under cross-examination, the claimant failed to provide consistent answers to questions put to him and appeared to hide behind his Polish interpreter by falsely suggesting he didn’t understand what was being asked of him.

The court also heard how two of Rogalinski’s friends had also claimed to have been in the Audi at the time of the bump, going on to submit personal injury claims of their own. However, the defendant clearly recalled that the claimant’s friends had, in fact, been sitting on Rogalinski’s doorstep, not in the vehicle. As a result, these false claims were withdrawn and the pair did not give evidence at Rogalinski’s trial.

In making his ruling the judge, DDJ Baehr, said Rogalinski had “twisted and turned in his evidence, because unlike [the defendant] his evidence did not have the solid foundation of being a truthful account”. The judge had no hesitation in dismissing the claim and used court powers introduced in 2013 to rule it as being ‘fundamentally dishonest’. In doing so, the claimant is now liable to pay Horizon’s legal costs of £7,744.

Ronan McCann, Partner at Horwich Farrelly, commented: “The claimant clearly thought he could take advantage of a minor collision following a small error on the part of the defendant. As a result, he dragged the defendant through a legal battle, causing huge amounts of unnecessary stress and inconvenience. But thanks to the defendant’s clear memory of the events leading up to the collision, we were able to disprove Rogalinski’s statement in court, with the result of securing justice for insurer Horizon and their innocent policyholder.

“This is a clear case of a claimant trying their luck to get their hands on easy cash, believing it to be a victimless crime – if indeed, they do accept it as the crime it is. We see and defend many similar cases, and work closely with our insurer clients, their policyholders and our highly trained investigation team to secure the right result in court.

“This claim ended up costing the claimant £7,744 in costs, rather different from the £2,400 he hoped to receive.  It’s an important lesson and a clear example to other would-be fraudsters.”

Peter Goodright, Claims Director of Horizon Insurance commented, “Our fraud team identified concerns with the validity of this claim at an early stage. By working with our policyholder and Horwich Farrelly we were able to build a strong and robust case to successfully defeat the claim and secure a finding of fundamental dishonesty. We are delighted with the outcome of the case and the message this sends to anyone involved in or considering committing insurance fraud”.