Car insurance fraud – by the coach-load

Minor car crash between two cars
The three men behind a crash-for-cash fraud involving a coachload of people have been sent to prison for a total of 29 months.

 

Liam Gray, Ben Carberry and Kevin Hamilton were jailed for organising a deliberate crash between the coach and a car driven by Hamilton in a bid to make fraudulent insurance claims. The aim of the scam was to claim close to £150,000 in fake personal injury claims made by the 30 people on the coach. But the plan started to unravel when the coach driver – who was not in on the fraud – raised the alarm…

What happened?

The accident between Hamilton’s car and the coach, which was transporting 30 people to Belle Vue dog track in Manchester, took place in December 2011. It involved Hamilton hitting the coach from behind at a roundabout at a junction of the M57. The impact was so slight that the coach driver did not even notice it had happened. However, he pulled over after being told by passengers that a Renault Megane had ploughed into the back of his vehicle. He also delivered the passengers to a pub in Bootle after they said they felt too unwell to go on with the trip, even though the damage to the two vehicles was superficial. And he watched them run across the road to the pub – despite their “injuries”.

How did they get caught?

The 30 coach crash whiplash claims received by Service Underwriting, acting on behalf of Mulsanne Insurance, raised suspicions – especially given the coach driver’s take on events. The firm therefore referred the case to the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED). Its investigation established that Gray had bought the Renault involved in the collisions, along with insurance for Hamilton, and that Carberry had arranged and paid for the coach. Det Sgt Mark Forster at IFED said: “This was a carefully planned crime by a group of friends. The fact they were putting lives at risk by causing a crash on a busy motorway did not hold them back.”

What is “crashing for cash”?

Insurance fraud shot up by 18% in 2013, pushing the total to a record £1.3 billion, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). And many of the fraudulent claims related to deliberate collisions in which criminals “crash for cash”. Whiplash claims – genuine as well as exaggerated and bogus ones – are thoughts to add around £90 a year to the cost of car insurance. Some £50 of that figure is the result of fraudulent claims.

What is being done about it?

Laws introduced last year aim to slash the number of fraudulent whiplash claims by stopping “ambulance-chasing” lawyers receiving referral fees and making claimants who are found to be dishonest pay their own costs. This new regime seems to be having the desired effect. The amount claimed in personal injury cases has fallen by 33% year-on-year to £238 million, according to a recent report from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. Just last month, an Aviva claimant found to have been dishonest was also ordered to pay his own court costs.

If you suspect you have been involved in or seen a “crash for cash” incident, you can report it to the Insurance Fraud Bureau by calling its confidential Cheatline on 0800 422 0421.

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