Car accident was ‘staged’ for insurance con attempt

Fake claims for personal injuries, made against an insurance company by a man involved in a staged road traffic accident, were dismissed at Galway Civil Court.

Flavius Grancea (22), who lives with his in-laws, the Samu family, at 33 Fana Glas, Ballybane, sued his house mate, Alexandra Badila, for injuries to his back, left knee and head, which he claimed he had sustained in a two-car collision on April 8, 2014.

Grancea also made a separate, second claim for personal injuries against Axa Insurance DAC.

The insurance company fought the case, contending the ‘accident’ had been staged for the purpose of making false insurance claims.

The court heard that Badila, who was unemployed had bought a Saxo car for €500 and obtained insurance from Axa on March 27, 2014 – twelve days before the ‘accident’ occurred.

The front seat passenger in the Audi A4 car, which the Saxo had purportedly rear-ended, was a Romanian woman named Wirginia Qutja, who had paid a €200 deposit to secure Badila’s Axa insurance policy.

Róisín McGuinness from Axa’s special investigations unit, told the hearing Ms Qutja was already an Axa customer at the time of this incident.  She said that during her investigation of the plaintiff’s personal injuries claims, she noticed that Ms Qutja’s mobile phone number and email address were used to contact the insurance company for a quote two weeks before the insurance policy was taken out for the Saxo car and that Qutja had paid the deposit.

Only two instalments were subsequently paid and the policy was cancelled by Axa on June 14, 2014 for non-payment of instalments.

She said Ms Qutja also made a claim against Badila’s insurance policy and Axa for personal injuries in relation to the collision, but withdrew her claims when told by the insurance company that she was being joined to the proceedings before the court as a co-defendant.

Neither Badila nor Ms Qutja were present in court.

With the help of a Romanian interpreter, Grancia told the hearing he was a front seat passenger in a Citroen Saxo car being driven by Badila.  His pregnant wife and his mother-in-law, Tita Samu, were back seat passengers.

He claimed their car, which was travelling from Fana Glas to Cluain Riocard, rear-ended an Audi A4 (being driven by Alexsander Qutja) which braked suddenly as it approached the Bothar na Choiste junction with the Tuam Road on the outskirts of Galway city.

He said he got out after the impact and dragged his pregnant wife from the back of the car.

Someone rang the emergency services and three fire brigades and three or four ambulances arrived on the scene.

John O’Donnell, BL, who represented Axa insurance, put it to Grancea that while Gardaí who examined the scene found the Saxo car was effectively written off, there was no corresponding damage to the rear of the Audi, save for a popped brake light cover.

Mr O’Donnell said no collision could have occurred because the Saxo was found by Gardaí 15 metres behind and up a hill from the Audi and its extensive damage was inconsistent with the lack of damage to the rear of the Audi.

In reply to the barrister, Grancea said he was an honest man and had never been in court before.

Detective Garda Bernard McLoughlin, who investigated the alleged accident, gave evidence to the contrary.

He said this accident had occurred at around 10.30pm on the date in question and Grancea had appeared before Longford District Court just hours beforehand and had subsequently received convictions for theft and possession of weapons.

Det. McLoughlin said that he had never come across an accident like this one before.  “Nothing added up. It made no sense. In my twelve years attending the scenes of accidents, alarm bells started ringing with this one.

“The firemen had to cut the roofs off the cars to get the people out. It didn’t appear to me that anybody was injured. Nothing matched up.  It was very different to any other RTA I ever attended,” he said.

He pointed out that there was no debris on the road to indicate the point of the supposed impact.

He said no criminal proceedings had been brought as yet because the investigation was still ongoing and a file on alleged fake, staged accidents was being compiled at present.

Grancea, the court was told, got on a stretcher and spent a few hours in A&E before being told to go home and see his own GP.   Two medical reports handed into court stated he suffered only superficial soft tissue injury.

Grancea said his wife had been kept for a few days in the hospital. He denied a suggestion that she had not been in the Saxo car at all. She was not present in court.

Judge John King said that placing everything else aside, and just looking at the photos of both cars, along with the location of the vehicles at the scene and the inconsistencies of Grancea’s evidence, he could not find for the plaintiff and dismissed his claims for damages.  He also awarded costs in favour of Axa.