Conviction for attempted £2.3 million insurance claim

A man who exaggerated his injuries and attempted to claim millions of pounds in compensation has received a prison sentence in the Royal Courts of…

A man who exaggerated his injuries and attempted to claim millions of pounds in compensation has received a prison sentence in the Royal Courts of Justice, London after his deception through the legal process was uncovered and he was found in contempt of court.

Michael Richards, 31, was involved in a tragic car accident in 2004, which resulted in two fatalities. Mr Richards suffered head and orthopaedic injuries; however, he subsequently attempted to claim £2.3million in compensation from Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) by exaggerating his injuries and the effects on him.

Ashton West, Chief Executive at MIB said: “MIB is a not for profit organisation that exists to support genuine claims from innocent victims that have sustained injuries caused by uninsured or untraced drivers. The attempt to claim money under false pretences was one driven by greed. This judgment sends a strong message that MIB, the insurance industry, courts and public will not tolerate false or fraudulent claims and these cases will be pursued with vigour.”

As his compensation case progressed through the legal system, Mr Richards puzzled medical professionals as he presented himself as almost mute and incoherent. MIB instructed Weightmans LLP to advise and assist with investigations into what was being presented as a very large and complex claim. The investigation included surveillance of Richards’ residence and reviewing his police records.

Mike Pope, a partner at Weightmans explains, “In 2009, Mr Richards was arrested in connection with other matters and this revealed Mr Richards speaking to the officers normally while under questioning, and without any assistance from a carer.  Furthermore, the address provided by Mr Richards to the officers as his home address was completely different to the council property he had quoted when making his claim. When the new address was put under surveillance we quickly amassed footage of him living a completely normal life, working out at the gym, talking normally and driving a car.”

Weightmans demonstrated that this new evidence was significant to determining the true level of his disability and advised MIB in the defence of the personal injury claim and later in bringing the contempt of court action.

MIB released its evidence and shortly after, in February 2010, Mr Richards’ claim for compensation was withdrawn. Later in 2010, MIB initiated contempt of court proceedings against Mr Richards, his sister Serina Richards and his foster father for their part in the deception.

Serina Richards was complicit in making a statement about Richards’ condition which she knew to be untrue and for assisting with the deception when accompanying Richards in medical examinations as part of the legal claim process. Richards’ foster father signed a witness statement attesting to the extent of his brain damage which he knew was not true.

At the Royal Courts of Justice in London, President of the Queen’s Bench Division Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Wyn Williams sentenced Mr Richards to four months in prison. His sister Serina Richards was sentenced to 14 days. Richards’ foster father, Terence Bassnett, received a 14 day sentence suspended for six months.

“This is a significant and complex case that revealed multiple deceptions. The case required the expert eyes of both the legal team and the claims handlers at the MIB to gather all the evidence of fraud over a protracted period of time,” Mr Pope said.

“The judgment sends out a clear warning to dishonest claimants that the courts will not tolerate them – and that they won’t find a safe haven in high value claims.

“Mr Richards was determined to defraud MIB, and therefore all honest premium paying motorists, out of £2.3 million, so this contempt of court action was absolutely vital. Now more than ever, the public purse must be protected against opportunistic and organised fraudsters – and this is what the courts have done today.”

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