A car pulled out on me on a damp road. I braked, my bike went down and sustained some pretty minor plastics, lever and silencer damage.
My bike is a Suzuki GSX-R750. My insurance company told me to leave everything in their hands. I was third party only, so I was quite happy with this.
They told me that I would get a replacement bike and all my repairs would be looked after, two guys came round in a van, dropped off a VFR800 and took away my Suzuki, told me not to worry about anything and my bike would be brought back repaired.
After 13 weeks my Suzuki was brought back, bodywork repaired, scuffed pipe replaced, nice new levers so all was good. I had completely forgotten about this until I started getting letters from a law firm saying that they were acting on my behalf. I had never heard of them, but apparently my bike has a £2,002 storage charge and my hired VFR (which I hated and barely rode) has got a bill of just over £12,000.
I have now been told that I must produce my bank statements and sign a statement saying that I needed the bike for work. This is difficult as I have a van provided by my employer, a national power company. My van is parked outside my house when I’m not at work and it is heavily sign written, so you wouldn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out I have a works van.
The solicitors have now told me that if I don’t sign the statements I will owe £14,000 so I had better sign them. Bearing in mind that my bike was worth about £3,000 how the hell have I become liable for £14,000 for hire of a bike I did not want and storage I did not need? By the way, I now need to give them my bank statements, otherwise I will owe the credit company £14,000. Can you help?
The moral of this story is be careful what you sign, and also be careful who you believe. Your ‘hire document’ says that you requested the bike. You signed the document saying that It was necessary for your transport – including to work – and that you are personally liable for the charges. However, this was buried in a tightly typed document in legal jargon on the back of a handover sheet. Basically, you have been suckered.
The other driver’s insurance company have appointed a very specialist law firm, not least because they are pissed off at a £14,000 bill for a minor prang involving no injury and a bike worth £2,600 which was repaired. The solicitors are not acting for you. You never instructed them, and they will have been instructed by the accident management company.
That accident management company I know well, and the law firm is a firm who I come across with frequency. They are asking you to sign a statement which consists largely of easily proven lies. The statement says ‘I have no other form of transport and I need transport to get to work. I was not in a financial position to organise running repairs to the motorcycle’. If you sign that you will have perjured yourself.
People go to prison for doing that. Your bank statements have been requested for you to prove you could not afford repairs or a replacement vehicle, but that is now going to be irrelevant as you always had a company van. And the payments from your employer will show up on those statements, so as insurance frauds go, it is not a sophisticated one and it is one you do not want to be part of.
The law firm challenging the hire and storage claim trumped up on your behalf by your, ahem, solicitors clearly puts your solicitors, who are instructed by the claims management company, in direct conflict with you.
Your position is that you were advised that you would never have to pay any hire and this scam is well known. I have seen the correspondence from your ‘solicitors’ and it is becoming ever more threatening and hysterical. The rules are clear. If you put a statement before the Court that is false, whether for your benefit or for the benefit of another, the Courts regard this extremely seriously.
You have been wise, and you are not prepared to sign anything that is untrue. This has now resulted in you being told that you are liable for £14,000 worth of debt. I have seen this frequently. It Is very rare for the credit hire companies to go the whole hog and sue the recipient of a bike, because you would then reveal the whole dirty little game on oath, and in front of a Judge.
My feeling is they will get progressively more aggressive with you, but you must stand your ground. You should say to them ‘I am perfectly happy to sign a witness statement that is true, but I am not going to sign anything which contains a lie. I do not particularly fancy prison food.’
You must state what your direct recollection is, and not allow yourself to be spun to the point where you are either saying something which you do not believe to be true, or something which you know to be a lie.
The Courts are becoming ever more aware of these credit hire scams. They are aware that people in your position are regularly lied to, but the law firm appointed by the car driver is a firm that regularly sends out press releases about how they have made people liable for costs, how they have proven that claimants are liars and they have been behind the imprisonment of one claimant who brought a fraudulent claim, if you allow yourself to be used as an instrument of fraud, the costs will be more than £14,000, and even if you don’t get a prison sentence, you will be left with a dishonesty conviction which, would likely result in you being sacked. Your van comes with the job. Your employers could not allow you to enter into people’s houses unsupervised knowing that you have a dishonesty conviction. They would be entirely in their rights to sack you, and good luck getting another job.
You have done the right thing in holding the line, even though you have been put under pressure to start lying for somebody else’s benefit. Don’t give in to them.
Fast Bikes December 2016