Thursday 22 February 2018

Facebook used to weed out fraudsters as judges crack down on insurance scams

Lynsey Ivory and David Ward, who staged an accident
Lynsey Ivory and David Ward, who staged an accident
Rita Milinovic claimed to have suffered severe injuries in a car crash
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Signs that judges are taking a hard line on spurious insurance claims have been welcomed by groups representing drivers and insurance firms.

It comes after two high-profile cases where people exaggerating claims were found out from information they posted on Facebook.

Insurance fraud adds €50 to the cost of every motor policy. The overall cost of fraud is estimated at €200m.

AA Ireland and Insurance Ireland said that there were signs judges are not hesitating to throw out spurious claims.

Fraud was part of the reason that premiums have shot up by 30pc in a year.

A €60,000 court claim collapsed this week when waitress Rita Milinovic of Citywest, Dublin, who claimed to have suffered severe injuries from a car crash was found to have posted pictures of herself on Facebook after she climbed to the top of Bray Head, and shots of her posing at a body sculpture competition.

The judge said the woman was a "very fine specimen of human fitness".

He dismissed the claim and awarded costs against her.

Last week, David Ward and Lynsey Ivory of Clonshaugh, Dublin, who staged an accident in Donabate, Co Dublin, claimed not to know each other.

Ward claimed to have spinal injuries after two cars collided. But their posts on Facebook showed they were a couple.

Ward was jailed for a year. Ivory, who is now his wife, was given a suspended sentence.

There have been a number of other cases recently where false and exaggerated claims were thrown out by the courts, while in Cork last month a man was jailed for a year and six people received suspended sentences for staging car crashes to make fraudulent insurance claims.

Chief executive of Insurance Ireland Kevin Thompson said the two recent high-profile cases showed judges were taking a hard line.

He said the two recent cases showed that Facebook was proving to be the honest driver's best friend.

"The judiciary are taking a tough approach when dealing with spurious claims, which is to be welcomed," he said.

AA Ireland's Conor Faughnan said people who lie or exaggerate claims should not only lose cases and face having to pay legal costs, they should also be prosecuted for perjury.

He called on insurers and the legal profession to do more to challenge questionable claims.

"We are a soft touch for soft-tissue injuries in this country," he said, adding that whiplash accounts for 80pc of claims. This compares with 3pc of claims in France.

Mr Faughnan said part of the problem was that insurers often settle claims before they go to court in a bid to avoid losing and having to make big payments. Insurers need to do more to weed out spurious claims, he added.

Meanwhile, in Britain regulators have ruled that all renewal letters relating to motor, home, medical, travel and pet insurance will flag up the amount the customer paid the previous year alongside their quote for the coming 12 months.

This should make it easier for people to detect whether they are being overcharged, it is argued.

Irish Independent

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