A B.C. court has slapped seven people and a corporate entity with more than $150,000 in combined punitive damages over liability for insurance fraud in a series of staged car crashes.
According to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling dated Thursday, the trio of rear-end collisions in 2013 and 2014, all of which were without witnesses, were used by various parties to file personal injury lawsuits that cost ICBC thousands of dollars.
ICBC sued Inderjit Singh, Krishma Komal Prakash, Mehrafarin Mehran, Mohammad Raza Rasuli, Mahmoud Haghmohammadi, Gursharanjit Singh Bagri and Major Singh, and his company Pro Choice Auto Body Ltd., after a member of its Special Investigation Unit delved into the claims and found evidence of fraud.
In 2020, Justice Jennifer Duncan sided with the public insurer, awarding it more than $83,000 in damages for losses over the fraudulent claims.
Thursday’s ruling hit the fraudsters with nearly double that amount in punitive damages, saying their actions met the bar of “outrageous or reprehensible” conduct.
“The attempted fraud in this case was significant. A number of personal injury actions were commenced, which required the public automobile insurer to file defences and expend resources in retaining counsel, as well as in investigating the fraudulent conduct,” she wrote.
“None of the defendants was contrite in the face of the judgment against them. They all maintained the façade that the three collisions were actual accidents.”
At trial, Duncan found Haghmohammadi was a key organizer of all three staged collisions.
The first crash happened on Oct. 18, 2013, in Surrey, and involved Inderjit Singh rear-ending Prakash — a former employee of Haghmohammadi’s and wife to one of his friends — and Mehran while driving a vehicle Pro Choice had purchased from salvage.
Prakash and Mehran later both filed personal injury claims against Singh and Pro Choice.
Duncan found the autobody shop and its owner Major Singh had knowingly allowed his brother Inderjit to use the vehicle in the scam in order to profit from the vehicle damage claim, and that all of the participants were in on the plan.
The second crash happened Nov. 1, 2013, and involved Rasuli rear-ending Haghmohammadi in Surrey while both were driving previously salvaged vehicles. Haghmohammadi, the judge found, had acquired the Hyundai Sonata he was driving through Major Singh just one month before the crash.
Haghmohammadi later sued Rasuli over the collision.
Duncan found that Haghmohammadi, Ms. Prakash and Rasuli had worked together to set up and execute the crash.
The third crash happened on Jan. 18, 2014, not far from Pro Choice Autobody and close to where the first collision happened. It involved Haghmohammadi driving the same Hyundai, which had been repaired after the second crash.
The men’s insurance claims alleged Haghmohammadi was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver.
The force of the collision, the claims asserted, sent him crashing into an Acura — registered to Major Singh and also purchased from ICBC as salvage — which was being driven by Inderjit Singh with Bagri as a passenger.
All three men launched personal injury suits after the crash.
Duncan found the third crash was “likely to ensure that the Hyundai was damaged beyond repair to secure a payout” from ICBC, “which collision #2 had failed to do.”
Inderjit and Major Singh, Bagri and Haghmohammadi were all jointly liable for the crash, Duncan found.
Haghmohammadi, whom Duncan found had organized all of the crashes as well as filed a fraudulent lawsuit, was found liable for $50,000 in punitive damages.
Inderjit Singh, who participated in two crashes and filed a fraudulent injury claim, “was at or near the top of the organizational pyramid” with Haghmohammadi, and was hit with $30,000 in punitive damages.
Duncan ruled that Prakash, who was involved in staging the first crash and filing a bogus injury claim, was the connection between Haghmohammadi and Rasuli that facilitated the second crash, and hit her with $30,000 in damages.
Major Singh and Pro Choice, Duncan ruled, had a “passive” role in the scam, but were still liable for $15,000.
Mehran, who was a passenger in the first crash and filed a bogus injury claim “took a back seat to others,” but was still liable for $17,500 to punish her involvement.
Duncan found Rasuli was “a bit of a pawn” in the second crash and “dragged into the charade by Ms. Prakash. He did not file an injury claim and was handed $7,500 in damages.
Finally, Bagri, who was Major Singh’s son, was a teen when he was brought into the scheme, Duncan ruled. While he filed two bogus claims, Duncan found “his grasp of how the actions were commenced and what they were for was ‘somewhat vague,’” and handed him $5,000 in damages as punishment.
ICBC was also awarded court costs in the matter.
This article was originally sourced from www.globalnews.ca