Pryzbylska (P) was the registered keeper of a Maserati Quadraporte. However, there was every indication the real owner of the car was her daughter Stojek (S). The car finance and insurance was in the name of P, despite S contributing £12K on a credit card towards the purchase of the car. S, however, was the GAP insurance policyholder and the driver at the time of the alleged total loss incident. S had also been the driver of the car when it was involved in two previous accidents.
S, the owner of an accident management business advising eastern Europeans residing in the UK, said she was involved in a road traffic accident on a roundabout in West Bromwich. The third-party driver, Grabowski (G), failed to give way and drove into the side of S’s moving vehicle. The Maserati was suffered damage to both near side doors and, significantly, the roof. The total loss claim was presented to the motor insurer. Initially they were concerned that S’s claim form mentioned three passengers. However, S confirmed that she was alone in the car, dispelling any concerns regarding her credibility. The total loss was paid and a claim was presented to the GAP insurer for £22,140.
This was a three-year RTI GAP policy and the alleged accident occurred in the last week of the policy. The GAP insurer noted S’s business. The Maserati MOT had just expired. The damage to the roof of S’s car in particular looked to be inconsistent with the accident.
Crawford Legal Services (CLS) was instructed to validate the claim. P could not speak English however CLS obtained a statement translated by S’s husband. There was also a commitment obtained to arrange an independent translator, but this commitment was breached.
S confirmed that when the accident occurred her speed was 10/15 mph, and G had been driving at 25/mph when the collision occurred. G refused to cooperate with the validation process. CLS obtained forensic engineering evidence – the damage to the Maserati had either occurred when the car was stationary; or been struck several times, or occurred when the vehicle ignition was disengaged.
CLS advised the GAP claim should be declined. The GAP insurer took our counsel and declined the claim.
The GAP insurers then instructed CLS to recover its costs, seek a declaration the accident was staged and obtain exemplary damages. S and P continued to deny the accident was staged. G simply ignored all correspondence and took no part in the proceedings that followed. S and P filed a defence and the matter came before the Walsall County Court on the 27th October 2021. At the eleventh hour, with the trial about to start, S and P threw in the towel consenting to judgment against them on a joint and several basis for £34K including £5K each general damages. G was also ordered to pay £5K exemplary damages and made jointly and severally liable for the remaining costs and damages with S and P.
This claim highlights that insurers should contemplate action to discourage fraudulent claims.
In recent times CLS has tracked the changing profile of insurance fraudsters. We are now increasingly seeing both need and greed driving increasing levels of insurance fraud from businesses and professionals as well as individuals facing financial hardship.
Again, in this claim, like we see often, the motor insurer was unaware of the existence of the GAP insurance policy and the inevitable claim which might have transformed its initial view that the claim ought to be paid with no validation exercise. The lesson: when assessing every total loss road traffic claim, check if there’s a GAP policy in place as the first thing you do!