Insurance road scam that went fatally wrong

What you need to know:

  • The government said whiplash claims during 2010 numbered 554,000 costing £2 billion (Sh259 billion) which added £90 (Sh11,690) onto each car insurance policy.

They call it “cash for crash,” a scam whereby criminals cause a minor road collision, then claim thousands in insurance money. But when a stage-managed accident went wrong on the A40 in Buckinghamshire, an innocent woman lost her life.

The story in Reading Crown Court: Three Polish men in a Ford Transit van deliberately caused a minor collision with two other vehicles.

The car behind, a Ford Fiesta driven by Ms Baljinder Kaur Gill, aged 34, could not stop and drove into the back of their Ford van. This was what the men wanted – it was not a serious impact but it gave them the opportunity to claim for whiplash – an undetectable neck injury, and motor repairs.

What happened next was not planned. A Renault van drove at speed into Ms Gill’s car, killing her instantly in “an explosion of metal and glass”.

Prosecutor Baljit Ubhey said: “Whiplash for the three of them would have secured between £12,000 (Sh1.5m) and £15,000 (Sh1.9m), plus whatever damage to the car.

They selfishly placed their own financial gain above the life of Ms Gill. This was a ruthless gang intent on making money.”

Police sergeant James Upton said: “The cash for crash culture has become more prevalent, but this is the first known fatality as a result of an induced crash.”
Britain is known as the whiplash capital of Europe, having the smallest number of road accidents but the highest number of compensation claims.

Official figures show a 20 per cent decrease in reported accidents since 2006 but a 60 per cent increase in personal injury claims.

The government said whiplash claims during 2010 numbered 554,000 costing £2 billion (Sh259 billion) which added £90 (Sh11,690) onto each car insurance policy.

Whiplash is hard to diagnose. Usually there is no physical evidence and doctors have to rely on victims claiming headaches and stiff necks. In this way unscrupulous motorists can cash in.

The government is exploring possible methods to cut the number of claims while ensuring genuine appeals can still go ahead. In the A40 case, the three Poles were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, acting to pervert course of justice and causing death by dangerous driving.

Radoslaw Piotr Bielawski, 24, and Jacek Kowalczyk, 32, were each jailed for 10 years and three months, and Andrzej Boguslaw Skowron, 25, for 10 years.

An accomplice, Artur Okrutny, 23, got a year for acting to pervert the course of justice. Colin Lee, 32, was sentenced to 12 months for causing death by careless driving. Lee was not part of the conspiracy but drove the Renault van that hit Ms Gill.

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A new report says Britain fares badly in the European health league and names the five big killers as cancer, heart, stroke, respiratory and liver diseases. Among the causes: too much smoking and drinking, lack of exercise, a bad diet and high blood pressure.

Predictably, the government said plans were in hand to improve things, but a comment on the BBC website offered a different take: “If we were not taxed to death, worked to death and penalised for every little thing we do, we would drink less, smoke less and have more time to exercise.”

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In my jokey piece last week on social miscreants and the punishments they should receive, I referred to “pests with deafening ghetto blasters.” A reader, apparently misunderstanding this, demanded sternly: “Did you call human beings living in ghettos pests? Are they by any chance the foreigners living in your country?”

Just to clear things up, ghetto blasters are outsize radios which some young men carry around, always turned to maximum volume.

Actually, you don’t see many of them these days now that audio players are in vogue. I don’t think there are any ghettos in this country, but anyway, no, nothing to do with human beings.

* * *
In a dark and curtained room, the fortune teller peered into her crystal ball.

“I’m sorry, you must prepare to be a widow,” she told her client. “Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year.”

Deeply shaken, the widow-to-be took deep breaths to compose herself, steadied her voice and said, “Just one more question. Will I be acquitted?”

* * *

A young worker was leaving the office after 5 p.m. when he found the managing director standing helplessly in front of the shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

“Listen,” the boss said, “this is a very sensitive and important document and my secretary has left. Can you make this thing work?”

Certainly, said the clerk. He turned on the machine, inserted the paper and pressed the start button.

“Excellent, excellent, thank you so much,” said the MD as his paper disappeared into the machine. “I just need one copy.”

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