Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Litigants beware of use of social media

It has been reported how a semi-professional footballer has been handed a four-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of faking a £2,000 whiplash claim.

Gary Burnett made the injury claim following an accident at a McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant in October 2013. He said he had suffered injuries to his neck and back which left him unable to play for his team, Northwich Victoria, for around four weeks.

However, he was found to have been tweeting about playing football 24 hours after the incident.

One tweet read: ‘Nice little trek to Kendal later for footy’. He also tweeted about playing and scoring in the FA Trophy less than three weeks after the accident.

After the tweets were shown to Burnett’s solicitors, he withdrew his claim. However, the insurers were not prepared to drop the matter and pursued him through the courts. The judge found Burnett to have been fundamentally dishonest and ordered him to pay a significant sum for the defendant’s costs. He also referred the case to the Attorney General to consider whether Burnett should be prosecuted for contempt of court.

After the prosecution was brought, Burnett admitted to being in contempt of court and was committed to prison for four months, suspended for 12 months.

The court noted that ‘a deterrent sentence is called for even if low value. There is no alternative but for a custodial term….he would have recovered damages it is clear from the evidence if he hadn’t been rumbled.’

Comment

The case clearly shows the ability of social media to have a profound effect upon personal injury claims and litigation. The case was the first ever prosecution by the Attorney General in a case involving insurance fraud. It should serve as a warning to those making false claims for compensation for injury and a reminder that social media can be a powerful tool.

If you have any questions or need advice in about making a claim for compensation for injury, please contact one of our specialist injury team on 0800 316 8892 or by email enquiry.