A SEMI-professional footballer scored a spectacular own goal after a court ruled he made a dishonest claim for whiplash following a minor car accident and then tweeted about playing just 24 hours after the bump.
In a landmark hearing at Wigan County Court this week, Gary Burnett, who plays for Northwich Victoria, but lives in Lowton, said he received whiplash injuries in a car accident and made a claim for £2,000.
The insurance company Aviva became suspicious when Burnett, 24, made the claim following the incident at a drive-thru restaurant in Birkenhead, where no injuries were reported and the damage was only minor.
The player, who once played for Skelmersdale United, and also works part-time as a window cleaner, claimed he had suffered injuries to his neck and back which left him unable to play for his team, for around four weeks.
As the claim was suspicious Aviva, represented by Horwich Farrelly solicitors, immediately launched an investigation into Burnett. They found his publicly-accessible Twitter account where he had tweeted about playing when he’d claimed he was out of action.
One tweet reading “Nice little trek to Kendal later for footy” - referring to an away match in the Cumbrian town - was posted just a day after the incident. Further detective work showed him bragging online after knocking higher-ranked team Nantwich Town out of the FA Trophy with a second-half goal, less than three weeks after the accident.
The case was dropped by Burnett’s solicitors and the courts were able to use recently-introduced powers to rule the claim as being ‘fundamentally dishonest’. Such a finding removes the protection claimants have from paying the other party’s costs and opens the door to a criminal conviction.
The court heard the mountain of evidence against Burnett who chose not to attend the hearing.
The judge accepted the claimant had misled his solicitors, his medical expert, the defendant and the ourt. The Jjudge concluded Burnett had made a dishonest personal injury claim and had openly publicised his footballing achievements on social media.
The judge ruled Burnett’s claim was fundamentally dishonest and ordered him to pay Aviva’s costs of more than £11,000. It is believed to be one of the first such findings in a case which was dropped before reaching the courts.
Dave Lovely, Aviva Global Claims Director, welcomed the outcome saying: “This case highlights how a minor claim can be seen as an open-goal for fraudsters. However, we are determined to tackle these fraudulent claimants and stop them scoring against us and our customers. It shows that we will pursue and prosecute those who commit fraud, while taking care of genuine claimants.”
Jared Mallinson, partner at Horwich Farrelly, added; “The hapless footballer clearly couldn’t resist boasting about his performance on social media despite claiming to have been unable to play. The court’s decision to find him fundamentally dishonest is a red card to any would-be fraudster that they will be caught.”