On 1 July, The Times newspaper, among others, reported on a patient who was claiming in the region of £1.5 million pounds in compensation following what he alleged were delays in his surgery at a local hospital, the Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby, which led to him becoming disabled for life. He was later found to be making a fraudulent claim and as a result is now likely to receive a jail sentence for fraud.
The patient claimed that following a fall at his home, for which no-one was to blame, he developed a condition called “Cauda Equina Syndrome”. Cauda Equina is Latin for “horse’s tail” and describes how the nerve bundle running through the spine separates out at the base of the spine such that the bundle fans out and is said to resemble a horse’s tail. If pressure is put on the nerves or they are damaged in any way, then unless the pressure is relieved or the damage can be reversed in a very short window of time, then it is likely to become permanent and result in potential paralysis, incontinence, sexual dysfunction and chronic pain.
It is essential that the condition is treated as soon as possible and our clinical negligence team sees several such cases in any year. Unfortunately, the symptoms that trigger an attendance at a GP or A&E are also signals that it may be too late for any treatment to be fully effective in reversing or preventing the damage, but it may be possible to prevent the injury getting worse.
We are lawyers and not doctors, so our advice is not medical, but if you do have a fall, or have something drop on to your back, it may be wise to get it checked out, especially if you start to feel numbness, especially in the buttock area, pins and needles, or leakage from bladder or bowel.
The point here though is not so much the syndrome that this patient suffered, but that he fraudulently tried to claim more compensation than he was entitled to for his real injury by exaggerating it.
Counsel for the Trust, against whom the patient had made a claim, James Todd QC said:
“AB (the patient) had made a “good recovery” from his treatment.
His true level of disability was very minor, if there was any disability at all. When making those statements and representations, he was fabricating and/or grossly exaggerating his symptoms and disability.”
AB’s fraud was discovered when, as part of the NHS’s “crackdown” on fraudulent claims, he was videoed by a physiotherapist struggling to get out of bed and using a walking stick to get into his new LandRover Discovery he had bought with an “interim payment”- a payment given on account to help the Claimant usually with essentials pending a final award of compensation. He also claimed he had to use a wheelchair on occasions and was in constant pain.
But then the Trust discovered pictures on social media of him on holiday with his family in Spain showing little if any signs of disability. Suspicious, they then went further and hired surveillance agents to film DD and this confirmed their suspicions by showing him lifting furniture and jumping into his car with ease.
These films are then sent to the Claimant’s lawyer and can be used as evidence in Court, should the matter continue that far.
AB was arrested for fraud and has admitted contempt of court, apologising for this through his lawyers. Somewhat unbelievably, given the charges, AB then tried to avoid attending court for sentencing and at 6 a.m on the morning he was due to be sentenced, claimed he was too ill to attend court due to a heart condition, even calling an ambulance. He is reported to have been “swiftly discharged” from hospital and re-arrested on his return home. He will be sentenced at the Old Bailey in London.
We at Ringrose Law absolutely condemn any attempts to defraud the NHS or insurers -or even ourselves – on the part of clients or patients who exaggerate or invent symptoms to try to claim compensation they are not entitled to. It demeans and undermines those genuine claimants who really are struggling with the consequences of injury and desperately need compensation money to cope.
The financial consequences are substantial as well. There is a legal concept called “fundamental dishonesty” in relation to the civil claim for compensation, in addition to criminal charges of fraud and contempt of court, both of which can lead to sentences of imprisonment.
With fundamental dishonesty, if a Claimant is found to have exaggerated or even invented their accident or claim and/or the extent of the injuries involved in order to obtain or increase compensation, their claim can be deemed completely dishonest in total and no award of compensation will be allowed at all. Even if there is a genuine injury that would have merited a smaller award of compensation, this too will be disallowed. The Claimant will get nothing.
Interim payments will have to be repaid.
Further, he or she will also become liable for the Defendant’s legal costs and their own legal costs. The Conditional Fee Agreement that will almost certainly have been entered into with solicitors to fund the claim will be null and void if dishonesty is found and “no-win, no-fee” will not apply. Solicitors will enforce their costs in this situation and this could lead to bankruptcy and loss of homes and jobs.
It is a serious business.
AB isn’t the first and he won’t be the last, but Defendants are becoming increasingly wise to attempts to defraud and are becoming ever more inventive in finding ways to detect it-and rightly so, in our view.
We can certainly help you get proper compensation where you’ve been injured through no fault of your own, either in an accident or due to negligent medical treatment, but we can’t support dishonest claims.