Where a claim has no serious chance of success, the court may order it to be ‘struck out’. When this occurs, the claim fails absolutely. The court has the right to strike out a claim at any stage in the proceedings, but must use this power only if it is just and proportionate to do so.

Recently, an insurance company faced with a claim for £250,000 in a personal injury case put the claimant under covert surveillance. This showed that he had exaggerated his injuries to such an extent that the judge considered his conduct to be fraudulent. The insurance company considered the claim to be an abuse of the legal process and applied for it to be struck out entirely.

However, because there had been a genuine injury, compensation for which was assessed by the court at nearly £90,000, the judge refused to strike out the claim. The insurance company appealed against this decision, arguing that the fraudulent exaggeration of the claim was an abuse of process. The case wound up in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled that, on the facts of the case, the exaggeration was not sufficient to warrant the striking out of the claim and the denial of any damages for the injured man. Each case must be assessed on its own merits.

Says Jason Claridge “Although this decision may seem to be playing into the hands of people seeking to exaggerate personal injury claims, a person making a claim that is exaggerated to the point of being fraudulent can expect to have the court order them to pay some or all of their legal costs and may also face criminal prosecution.”