Fire brigades and ambulances attended ‘staged’ crash

‘Nothing added up. It made no sense’ said garda who saw no debris on road

Claims for personal injuries, which were made by a man involved in an alleged staged road traffic accident, have been dismissed at a court in Galway.

The court heard evidence from a detective Garda who attended the scene of the incident allegedly involving an Audi A4 and a Citroen Saxo which had been bought for €500 and said he had never come across an accident scene like this one before.

Detective Garda Bernard McLoughlin told Galway District Civil Court: “Nothing added up. It made no sense. In my twelve years attending accident scenes, alarm bells started ringing with this one.

“The firemen had to cut the roofs off the cars to get the people out but it didn’t appear to me that anybody was injured,” he said.

He saw a claw hammer in the grass verge a couple of yards away from the Audi which had two of its side windows smashed in. He noted no damage to the rear of the car.

In contrast, the front of the Saxo car was badly damaged and situated uphill about 15 metres away from the Audi.

There was no debris on the road to indicate the point of the supposed impact.

Flavius Grancea (22), who lives with his in-laws, the Samu family, at Fana Glas, Ballybane, Galway, sued his house mate, Alexandra Badila and Axa Insurance DAC, for injuries which he claimed were sustained in the two-car collision on April 8th, 2014.

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

The court heard Mr Badila bought the Saxo car for €500 and obtained insurance from Axa on March 27th, 2014 - twelve days before the alleged accident occurred.

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

Roisin 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 claim, she noticed 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 Ms Qutja had paid the deposit.

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

She said Ms Qutja also made a claim against Mr 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 Mr Badila nor Ms Qutja were present in court.

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

He claimed their car rear-ended an Audi A4, (being driven by a Mr Alexsander Qutja) which braked suddenly as it approached a junction on the outskirts of Galway city.

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

Handing photographs of both cars into court, John O’Donnell, counsel for 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.

He said no collision could have occurred because the Saxo was also found by gardaí 15 meters behind and up a hill from the Audi.

Detective Garda Bernard McLoughlin said he had never come across an accident scene like this one before.

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

Passengers refused to get out

“Firemen were busy cutting people out of both cars because they had refused to get out of them,” Mr O’Donnell told the court.

“Everybody got onto stretchers and got into ambulances and were brought to hospital.

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.

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.

His mother-in-law, Tita Samu gave evidence with the interpreter’s help that she suffered bruising from the seat belt and pain to her neck as a result of the impact. She too got on a stretcher and was brought to hospital.

Mr O’Donnell put it to her that the insurance company was saying the so-called accident was a ‘set-up’. She denied knowing anything about that.

Judge John King said that by looking at the photos of both cars, 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 awarded costs in favour of Axa.

Afterwards, Axa fraud investigation manager, Colm Featherstone said: "Axa welcomes the outcome of this particular case and sees it as vindication for the very strong position the company always takes in claims of this nature, and will continue to do, in order to protect our honest policy holders."