Supporters of Leeds United have probably forgotten all about the day their side defeated Yeovil Town 2-0 at Elland Road back in November, 2013. However, for some fans attending that game, the day will live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons.
It was on that day that a supporters’ bus, available to both home and away fans, had a fairly innocuous collision with a Ford Fiesta. However, this minor clash prompted more than 50 personal injury claims from supporters – and now two men have been found guilty of making dishonest claims.
Neil Muscroft, 53, of Pontefract, and Martin Costello, 51, of Leeds have been ordered to repay total legal costs of £12,000 after a judge ruled their claims to be fundamentally dishonest.
The claims related to an incident when a First Bus packed with football supporters, and travelling less than 10mph in heavy traffic, drove too close to a Ford Fiesta in front and there was a minor collision. The retired couple driving the Ford Fiesta were unharmed – but First Bus received more than 50 personal injury compensation and expenses claims from the bus passengers.
Given the very low speed at the time of the collision the First Bus internal claims team, Transportation Claims, working with Horwich Farrelly’s counter fraud team, investigated a number of the claims received including those of Muscroft and Costello, which were worth around £4,200 and £2,400 respectively. They revealed significant inconsistencies across the two claims with compelling evidence submitted during the two trials held at Leeds County Court in April and June 2016.
Firstly, Muscroft alleged the force of the collision had thrown him to the ground causing him to suffer injuries to his neck and shoulder for eight- to 10 months. However, statements from the occupants of the Fiesta confirmed that the collision was extremely minor in nature and could not feasibly have caused such injuries. In addition, CCTV footage from the bus showed passengers were so tightly packed that there simply would not have been room for Muscroft to fall.
The investigation also showed that despite stating he was in constant, severe pain for many weeks after the incident, Muscroft had taken no time off work, had not mentioned his alleged injuries during other GP appointments in the two months following the collision, and had even declined the offer of physiotherapy for which he had claimed.
In the case of Costello, he was clearly shown on the CCTV from the bus twice holding his neck while smiling in the moments after the incident. This was despite his claim stating that the pain only began the following day. Once challenged in court by the judge, the claimant struggled to explain his actions.
In light of evidence collected and presented by First Bus and Horwich Farrelly, the judge in each case found the claim to be fundamentally dishonest, and ordered Muscroft and Costello to pay First Bus costs of £7,163 and £4,839 respectively.
Mark Hudson, fraud partner at Horwich Farrelly, explained: “The CCTV footage of the second claimant holding his neck, yet clearly not in any pain immediately after the collision, suggested to us that he was joking with friends about whiplash, and possibly even about making a claim – another indicator that this claim was worth investigating further. Alongside other parts of his statement which contradicted the CCTV evidence and witness statements, and his failure to produce statements from the witnesses he named, provided enough evidence for the judge to conclude this was indeed a dishonest claim.
“This sends a clear message to other would-be fraudsters that a fake claim is simply not worth it. These claimants have ended up paying almost double the amount for which they claimed – a costly mistake they are likely to regret for some time to come.”
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