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Case exposing dubious practice by motor engineers shifts goalposts for insurers

A dismissed credit hire claim has lifted the lid on dubious practice by motor engineers when conducting accident inspections.

The claim in question arose out of a minor incident in 2019, when the defendant’s driver, an employee of retailer Storm of London, bumped the parked car of claimant Mhammad Murtada Hodroje. The collision caused what appeared to be no more than two tramline scuffs to the car’s rear bumper. Yet despite the trivial nature of the incident, the claimant nonetheless claimed for the pre-accident value of the car, credit hire, recovery and storage charges.

The claimant subsequently instructed Evans Harding Engineers to produce an inspection report to assess the state of the vehicle. The inspector, Mr Simon Levitt, declared in his report that the car was an undriveable write-off.

On the first date of trial, the claimant claimed that the car had been repaired for around £2,000.

Mr Levitt, who attended the trial to give evidence, admitted that he had not seen the report before the trial date, and that the contents of the report differed from his original handwritten notes, which were disclosed by him on the day. He conceded that the usual practice was for reports to be produced in his name and sent directly to defendants without being reviewed or personally signed by him.

As to his conclusion the car was unroadworthy, which was founded on the contention the boot lid would not open and the exhaust muffler needed changing, he accepted that he could not actually check those items as the car’s battery was flat upon inspection.

The trial was then adjourned to allow the defendant to collate additional evidence alongside the second defendant Ageas, and Weightmans. This included proof that the claimant’s car had not been repaired and it was still in use.

The case returned to trial on 25 June 2021, and despite being afforded the opportunity to do so, neither the claimant nor Mr Levitt attended to give further evidence.

Judge Paul Brooks dismissed the claim for hire, recovery and storage, with the claimant ordered to pay the defendants’ costs. The judge found that Mr Levitt conducted the most superficial inspection and he put forward findings which could not have been caused by a proper examination and were therefore speculative assertions upon which the court could not rely. The judge later joined both Simon Levitt and Evans Harding to the proceedings for the purposes of later determining whether they should contribute towards those costs.

Jeff Turton, principal associate in the Liverpool office of Weightmans, who acted on behalf of Ageas Insurance, said: “This was an important case not only for our client, who have had the fraudulent claim brought against them thankfully dismissed, but for the wider insurance industry when it comes to assessing the legitimacy of credit hire claims.

Robin Challand, claims director at Ageas Insurance, added: “This case shows that reports should not always be taken at face value. Insurers should be prepared to conduct additional due diligence to guarantee the accuracy of the facts presented. In the long-term, this approach will likely reduce claims costs, putting money back into the pockets of our customers.”

  • Trivial car bump incident inflated into ‘undriveable write off’ claim on basis of unreliable inspection report
  • Claim for associated charges dismissed by judge
  • Significant for insurers when it comes to assessing the legitimacy of credit hire claims

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