It’s not really funny, but there always seems to be an element of amusement when insurance fraudsters get their comeuppance.
It used to be the ones that attended court on crutches and then walked normally when they thought they were out of sight, not knowing they were being followed by a Private Detective. Nowadays, they claim they can’t work because of their ‘injuries’, but then post pictures of themselves bungie jumping, pole dancing or similar exploits on social media.
For real comedy, those of a certain age may remember the Only Fools and Horses episode where Uncle Albert decides to sue the brewery after failing into The Nags Head’s cellar. Del Boy, feeling they are on to a winner, turns down a £2000 out of court offer, only to hear in court that Uncle Albert had been involved in 15 previous incidents and as a trained parachutist, knew how to fall!
There always seems to be someone prepared to try it on and, in recent years, the case of John Darwin aka ‘Canoe man’ comes to mind. Presumed dead having paddled out to sea at Hartlepool, his wife got the life insurance money, only for him to turn up in Panama a few years later. They were sentenced to 6 years (obviously only serving three), although they have apparently repaid the insurance money.
A recent case also demonstrates how far some will go. Samuel Mervin was seriously injured in a 2014 motorcycle accident, but the insurer became suspicious when his lack of recovery did not seem credible. Mervin claimed he could not walk unaided and incredibly, according to the law firm, even underwent unnecessary surgery to perpetuate the fraud seeking a £1.5m pay-out, until surveillance showed he was fully mobile and using a motorcycle for work. When the insurers presented evidence of his fundamental dishonesty in court, Mervin withdrew his claim.
However, insurance fraud is no longer just restricted to people exaggerating a valid claim: ‘milking’ a whiplash injury or the small minority who make completely fraudulent claims. It is now big business, with organised criminal gangs staging ‘crash for cash’ accidents, where they induce motorists to crash into them and make exaggerated or fraudulent injury claims, some with assistance from disreputable claims management companies.
The insurance industry is trying to fight back and have introduced many initiatives over the last few years including the Insurance Fraud Bureau. They have been responsible for bringing a number of criminal gangs to justice in recent months, but insurance fraud is still a massive problem, estimated to cost insurers over £1billion a year.
But whilst we have ‘canoe’ man in the UK, we are of course out done by the Americans with ‘Cessna, luxury sailboat and Lamborghini’ man. Theodore Robert Wright III recently pleaded guilty to multiple insurance fraud and along with three others, faces many years behind bars when sentenced. Wright headed up a gang that over 5 years deliberately destroyed two light aircraft (one in a fire and another crash landed in deep water), sank a luxury boat and crashed the Lamborghini into a water filled ditch. They then made inflated claims against various insurers, but Wright was another who publicised some of his exploits on facebook and Instagram, which alerted the authorities.
You wonder if some people will ever learn.