Car hire rate investigation launched

Six years after Accident Exchange exposed the fraud perpetrated by Autofocus on behalf of defendant solicitors and their insurer clients, Accident Exchange has launched a second investigation as evidence of similar dishonest practices emerge.

Accident Exchange chief executive, Steve Evans has launched a fresh investigation as a result of concerns identified from reviewing more than 100 statements regarding the cost of hire deployed by insurers in the last month alone.

Evans said, ‘The Autofocus matter will now proceed and I would not want to say anything to prejudice the right of the seven to a fair trial. However, it’s rather pathetic that the abhorrent behaviour that polluted the legal system between 2007 and 2010 has re-emerged as ‘normal business’ for some defendant solicitors and insurers.

‘In 2009, insurers claimed that they were deceived by Autofocus and didn’t know the evidence deployed on their behalf was dishonest. In 2015, there is no excuse for those same insurers – and their instructed solicitors – to be relying on similarly dishonest rate evidence simply because it helps them settle a case for less.’

Of the evidence reviewed, Evans has identified a number of alarming traits, including: former employees of Autofocus, against whom there is primary evidence of aberrant behaviour, still routinely providing evidence tainted by the same aberrant behaviour; Individuals deliberately concealing documents that challenge the evidence in their own witness statement, in order to deceive the court and defraud the innocent Claimant; organisations claiming in witness statements reliance on historical records of telephone conversations with hire companies, but refusing to disclose the transcript of those conversations or, in cases where they have been disclosed, revealing that the notes are not necessarily accurate or true records of the conversations that took place, and in some instances entire witness statements are predicated on evidence of available hire rates, which the maker knows cannot be true.

Evans continued, ‘You really would think with the insurance industry’s continual claims about the importance of eliminating fraud that those solicitors commissioning and paying for this evidence would have made sure that it was fit to be put before the courts as honest, complete and reliable.

‘After the lessons learnt in 2009, you would also hope that insurers had taken ownership of what was being done in their names.’

Permission was given by the Divisional Court to apply to commit seven former Autofocus employees to prison in February 2012 and, on 30 July 2015, Lord Justice Laws dismissed an application from four of the seven to strike out the claims against them, saying that ‘there is a substantial case to the effect that the course of justice has been comprehensively perverted up and down the country’.