The Importance of Being Honest – Claimants That Lie Can Lose Their Damages
An injured claimant who lied about the extent of his injuries has been made to pay the NHS’s costs of handling his claim.
Sandip Singh Atwal, a 33 year old courier and part-time DJ from Birmingham, was attacked by a person with a baseball bat while he was working in his family’s taxi firm. He suffered two broken fingers and a cut to his lip.
Mr Atwal went to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for treatment. He later sued the hospital trust for treating his injuries in a negligent way. The hospital trust admitted that they had been negligent.
The hospital trust made Mr Atwal an offer to settle his claim for £30,000 compensation. Mr Atwal didn’t want to accept this offer and said that the claim was worth much more. He made a claim for £837,109 compensation.
Mr Atwal said that the poor treatment of his injuries had left him disabled. He said that he couldn’t go back to work as a courier because he couldn’t do any lifting, and he couldn’t work as a DJ because he couldn’t use his hands properly. He said that the way his lip and hands looked made him feel too self-conscious to perform as a DJ. He said that he needed lots of help with housework and other tasks. He said that his pain led to him drinking too much and becoming hooked on pain killers.
The hospital trust suspected that Mr Atwal was not telling the whole truth. They put him under surveillance, meaning that he was followed and filmed without his knowledge. It is legal for NHS trusts to do this if they suspect that claimants are not being honest about their injuries. The footage showed Mr Atwal working and lifting heavy items, which he had said he could not do. They also found posts on social media that showed Mr Atwal was still working.
The hospital trust told Mr Atwal’s solicitors about the surveillance footage. Mr Atwal decided to accept the hospital trust’s offer of £30,000, which was still open for him to accept even though it had been made nearly 5 years before.
The hospital trust took Mr Atwal to court for lying about his injuries, and they won. It is against the law to lie during court proceedings. The court ruled that Mr Atwal had lied about his injuries and he was found to be in contempt of court.
Mr Atwal was made to pay the hospital trust’s legal costs. This wiped out the whole of his £30,000 compensation, and he still owes the hospital trust a further £5,000 on top.
Mr Atwal is still waiting to hear what his sentence will be. The maximum sentence for contempt of court is 2 years in prison.
Mr Atwal’s case shows how important it is for claimants to be completely honest about their injuries and not to exaggerate them in any way. A change in the law has meant that if a claimant lies about their claim, they can lose all of their compensation; they can be made to pay the legal costs of the defendant; and they can actually face criminal proceedings and even a prison sentence.
Read more about Mr Atwal’s case at the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43925372
Caroline Frean is an associate in our Medical Negligence team.