A shopkeeper has today told how he could have been put out of business following false claims of injuries outside his corner store.
Andrew Gibson, owner of Gibson’s, in Garstang Road, Fulwood, Preston, faced legal action after a mum-of-two said she had tripped in the car park – even though she had fallen at home 15 miles away.
It’s a busy shop, I live above it, I’m there all day every day. If someone fell over in that forecourt I would know about it.Andrew Gibson
Andrea Hill stood to get £17,500 compensation but she later admitted fraud against the Liverpool Victoria insurance company.
A “livid” Mr Gibson, 32, said it was the fifth allegation of its type but the only one that had gone to court.
He said: “It’s a busy shop, I live above it, I’m there all day every day. If someone fell over in that forecourt I would know about it. I was infuriated. It’s just immoral the way people go out and target small businesses.
“On the back of all that I’ve had to have the forecourt done. It wasn’t in great shape, I admit that, but nobody was falling over.
Blackpool magistrates heard how Hill, 48, went to hospital after a fall at her home in Lockhurst Avenue, Anchorsholme.
The rest home worker was treated and sent home but the following day was contacted by a man called Adam who said he was an injury claims lawyer.
He had full details about her trip to Blackpool Victoria Hospital and asked if he could visit her.
He spent 30 minutes with her and during that time told her her fall had been caused by pothole outside the mini-market, 15 miles away in Preston.
He then produced photos of Gibson’s shop on Garstang Road, and pictures of a car park pothole. He rang a law firm in Bolton and asked her to speak to a man there about her mishap.
As a result, the solicitors filed a claim against Andrew Gibson, claiming damages for Hill. The claim said she had broken her collar bone.
Mr Gibson did not deal with the claim himself and passed it on to his insurers, Liverpool Victoria.
Pam Smith, prosecuting, said: “LV instructed lawyers to contest the claim and they used a specialist investigator.
“CCTV was examined and it showed no-one falling. No staff at the store had been contacted about any fall.”
Liverpool Victoria had allocated £17,500 as a payout for Hill and had paid £1,600 in fees investigating her claim.
Her lawyer, Patrick Nelligan, said: ”An accident did take place but not where it was claimed.
“This woman’s details somehow got into the hands of some sort of agent for a law firm. She got caught up and allowed herself to be encouraged to make this claim.”
Sentencing Hill to 18 weeks in jail suspended for two years, chairman of the bench Brian Nicholson told her: “What you did was totally unacceptable you don’t know how close you were to going behind bars.”
Hill will also have to do 240 hours of unpaid work, pay £100 compensation to Mr Gibson and £1,654 compensation to Liverpool Victoria.
Mr Gibson has warned other shop owners to ensure they have external CCTV, and pass any claims to their insurance company.
He said: “Of course it’s a worry, you don’t know what’s going to happen. If it’s going to cost you, if it’s going to finish you off.
“I was fuming when I saw the letter, I was livid.
“It is an independent business. If they got paid out thousands and my insurance company found a way of not paying, I would have to pay and that would be the end of me.”