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Personal injury fakers should be prosecuted: Ford

By Staff

Police should consider laying fraud charges when surveillance evidence reveals accident victims have been faking their injuries, says Toronto orthopaedic spine and trauma surgeon Dr. Michael Ford.

In an era of spiralling insurance premiums and reduced coverage, Ford tells that a crackdown on malingering plaintiffs in particularly egregious cases will leave the province’s population better off.

“There are definitely times when surveillance confirms someone is acting fraudulently, but my understanding is that the police are very rarely called in and that subsequent fraud charges are virtually never laid,” he says. “Frankly, I think the police are not involved as often as they should be. There needs to be more done in the way of deterrence because right now, there is nothing to stop an individual from trying their luck.”

Ford says defendant insurers routinely employ private investigators to follow plaintiffs following a personal injury claim. As a result, he has waded through hours of video as part of his work offering expert opinions in personal injury matters.

While typically not a factor in litigation, he says it can change the course of a claim in those rare cases where it raises an issue.

“Surveillance video tends to be absolutely decisive, or completely useless. There’s not much in between,” Ford says. “Where it does come into play is where it clearly shows a significant discrepancy between the apparent ability of a person at the time of their examination and a markedly improved level on video.

“It can be pretty damning evidence that will shut down a plaintiff’s case fairly quickly,” he adds.

In one memorable case, Ford performed an assessment for an insurer in which he was unable to detect any serious injury in a plaintiff, despite the report of the individual’s own expert, who concluded he was seriously disabled by damage to his knee, and unable to work.

Subsequent surveillance performed on the plaintiff revealed footage of him working on his knees while hammering plywood, apparently without trouble.

“The plaintiff’s expert had to back down after being shown the video,” Ford says. “I took a certain amount of professional satisfaction from that one since it supported what I had said.”

He has also seen video surveillance in which a self-described “entertainer” who claimed he could no longer work following an injury, was caught performing a strip show in which he hoisted a member of the all-female audience.

Typically though, the result is less salacious, turning up hours of footage of claimants going about their normal lives.

“Most of the time there’s going to be nothing of interest, but occasionally it’s instrumental,” Ford says.

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