A defendant who brought a fraudulent claim against Cardiff Council in a ‘phantom passenger’ road traffic accident case has been sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 18 months, it has been reported.
Horwich Farrelly worked with insurer Zurich to defend the claim, which arose from an accident in 2014.
The law firm said Michael Falkingham, age 31 from Llanishen, Cardiff, had claimed he was a passenger in a Volkswagen transporter van involved in a collision with a Cardiff Council Ford Transit van, “when in reality he was not even present at the scene of the incident”.
Falkingham withdrew his injury claim before the case came to court, but was subsequently given the suspended sentence.
“This decision sets a clear standard regarding contempt and sends a warning to potentially fraudulent claimants; courts will prosecute even if they chose not to go through with the claim,” Horwich Farrelly said.
The law firm said it would work with Zurich to take two other individuals to court over claims they made at the same time.
As part of his claim, Falkingham went to the University Hospital of Wales to register his apparent injuries after the accident, even though he was not in either of the vehicles.
Horwich Farrelly said it had recorded a series of phone calls with Falkingham in which he admitted that it was both a ‘dodgy claim’ and a ‘cash for crash’ claim.
Zurich served proceedings based on this evidence and following the two-day trial, the court found Falkingham guilty of contempt.
Based on his early admission of guilt, the court handed down a four-month prison sentence, which was suspended for 18 months.
Ronan McCann, Managing Partner of Horwich Farrelly, said: “It was right and proper that the court took a hard line against Mr Falkingham, despite him withdrawing his fraudulent claim and only ever submitting a Claims Notification Form. This sends a strong message that insurers will not tolerate individuals seeking to defraud them and publicly funded bodies, even in circumstances where a fraudulent claim is submitted but not actively pursued.”
Scott Clayton, Head of Claims Fraud at Zurich, added: “The vast majority of claims we receive are legitimate, and we pay them promptly. However, we have a duty to detect bogus or exaggerated claims which drive up premiums for honest customers. This case sends a clear message that dishonest claimants – even those who bring a fraudulent claim and then don’t follow through by issuing proceedings – still face the toughest of penalties.”