In the case of Mr. Liaquat -v- Metrobus Limited, heard in the Brighton County Court, the Claimant’s vehicle, a Volkswagen Caddy was just touched from behind by the Defendant’s double-decker bus. The Claimant claimed for repairs to his vehicle and for personal injury.
The Defendant argued that the damage to the Claimant’s vehicle, which totaled a little over £500 that it was impossible or very unlikely that the Claimant would have suffered a personal injury.
The Claimant served an engineer’s report from Mr. Lund of Laird Assessors Limited, who allowed a reserve of £800, which included for a replacement bumper cover, bumper reinforcement (armature) and bumper brackets.
The Defendant instructed an engineer [Barry Wheeler of B.D. Wheeler Limited] to inspect both vehicles despite there being no damage to the bus. The damage to the Claimant’s vehicle was a circular indent to the rear plastic bumper cover. The indent was caused by the number plate screw on the bus when it touched the rear of the Volkswagen Caddy. The engineer reported that the impact would have been no more than 1mph and that the instantaneous change in velocity was significantly below the threshold at which unusual occupant movement is to be expected.
The Defendant paid for the repairs to the Claimant’s vehicle and insisted on him getting his vehicle repaired. Once the vehicle was stripped down, both engineers attended the repairing garage to inspect the damage. A Joint Report was prepared where the engineering experts agreed that the only damage was to the plastic bumper cover, there was no damage to the bumper armature or the bumper brackets, that the vehicles had only touched and the engineers described the impact as “only a nudge”.
Both parties obtained medical evidence, the Claimant initially from Dr. Sullivan, a GP and later from Professor Nee, a Consultant in A&E and the Defendant from Mr. Carew, a Consultant Spinal Surgeon.
Professor Nee would not confirm either way whether the Claimant had sustained an injury and left it to the Judge to decide. He stated that “if the Court accept the claimant’s account of the incident then it is reasonable that he sustained the injuries claimed…”. But “if the Court prefers the Defendant’s account of the incident, which implies little or no energy transfer, then either the claimant would not have been injured or, he would have sustained some short-lived, self-limiting symptoms of a minor nature…”.
Mr. Carew reported that “the level of force applied directly or indirectly to the Claimant as a consequence of the contact between vehicles cannot be considered sufficient to have resulted in any direct physical injury”.
Both experts were provided with the engineering evidence and photographs of the damage to the vehicles.
The Claimant advised under cross-examination, that the bus had jolted him and his vehicle forward and that the collision had propelled his vehicle 2 to 2½ feet forward. This was not evident from the expert evidence or the lack of damage to the Claimant’s vehicle.
There were multiple inconsistencies in the Claimant’s medical evidence and witness evidence, including the change of the recovery period of the Claimant’s personal injury claim between experts’ report, and the different areas of alleged injury. The unreported back injury in the medical evidence or medical records, which only appeared in the Claimant’s witness statement. The Claimant retracted the back injury at Trial but was unable to explain why it had ever been mentioned. Defendant’s Counsel, Andrew Roy [12 Kings Bench Walk] put it to the Claimant that he was making it up as he went along and this was why there were so many inconsistencies in his evidence.
Claimant’s counsel, James Bryne [7 Harrington Street] argued that the collision caused over £500 worth of damage, however the Judge responded by stating that the cost of a wing mirror these days would exceed this and the amount of damage does not reflect whether an injury has been sustained or not.
The Judge advised that the photographs were very informative and that the whole of the claim must be looked at skeptically. The Judge was not satisfied that the Claimant had established, on the balance of probabilities and therefore his claim was dismissed.
The Claimant was not a serial claimant nor had he staged the accident, he was simply an opportunist.
The Claimant was ordered to pay the Defendant’s costs on an indemnity basis.