Judge overturns whiplash awards to seven friends and family after mini-bus hit by 'mystery car'
A judge struck a blow against spiralling motor insurance premiums as she overturned awards for alleged whiplash to seven people after a collision with a "mysterious car".
Ms Justice Marie Baker said that while all the claimants had clinical signs of whiplash type injury, that did not mean the injuries were caused in the way described.
They had claimed a mini-bus was hit from behind by a car on August 9, 2008, at Snips Bridge, near the border in Co Monaghan, as they were on their way to a night out at the dogs in Dundalk.
They claimed the car sped off, no one got its registration and only two people said they actually saw a car.
They sued the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland (Mibi), which compensates victims of uninsured or untraced drivers.
In the Circuit Court, the seven were previously awarded between €3,000 and €8,000 compensation. Two other men, who were also passengers in the bus, had their claims rejected by the Circuit Court.
All nine were friends or relatives. The MIBI appealed the awards to the seven who got money - and opposed appeals brought by the two who had not been successful.
Yesterday the judge allowed the MIBI's appeals against the seven and dismissed the appeals by the two men.
The judge said the claimants had not satisfied the burden of proof.
She was satisfied most of the plaintiffs had, in the course of their evidence, "expressed little confidence or enthusiasm for a version of events that implicated a mysterious car".
David Fitzgerald, chief executive of the MIBI, said: "The MIBI welcomes the High Court's decision to overturn awards relating to these claims.
"Thanks to the thorough investigative work of our team, we were able to present a vigorous case which highlighted many of our concerns.
"We are committed to pursuing a strong defence against any claims which we believe do not stand up to scrutiny.
"Invalid claims of that nature add to the costs associated by the MIBI and ultimately impact on all motor insurance premium holders."
The case came down to the fact that, of the nine, only two said they saw a vehicle. Neither was clear as to the type of vehicle or number plate, and no debris was found on the road.
The two who said they saw a car were sisters Lyndsey (33) and Amanda (44) Gervin, both from Coalisland, Co Tyrone.
The judge said Lyndsey had told the court that ever since the 2008 accident she had not returned to her hobby of going to the gym every day.
However, her Facebook page was put to her in cross-examination, in which she stated she had returned to the gym by 2013.
She was one of the witnesses who saw the car speeding off and only one of two to say "the incident was caused by the mystery car".
What might seem like a minor fact or discrepancy in her evidence, whether she did or did not attend the gym in the years following the accident, "throws doubt on the credibility of her evidence in general", the judge said.
The court heard from two gardaí who said that when they arrived at the scene, they saw no evidence of an accident, including no debris on the road.
The other seven who sued were the bus driver David Morgan (40), Paul Campbell (38), his wife Deidre Campbell (40), Joanne McGirr (35), her sister Fiona McGirr (38), and Kevin Kernaghan (43), all from Coalisland, along with Bernadette McBride (58), mother of Ms Campbell, from Glasslough, Co Monaghan.
All except Mr Campbell and Mr Kernaghan were awarded compensation in the Circuit Court.