A former policewoman forced to quit her job after being injured in a road accident blatantly exaggerated complaints linked to her disability allowance, a High Court judge has held.
Awarding the ex-officer £45,000 in general damages for the crash in Co Antrim, Mr Justice Deeny described how it had been difficult to rely on her word in the case.
He said: “I find that her dealings with the Social Services Agency were disingenuous to the extent of being untruthful.”
The 42-year-old woman, who is not being named for legal reasons, collided with another motorist who pulled out in front of her car on the A8 dual carriageway in 2003.
She suffered whiplash to her neck and shoulders, along with back injuries, and underwent physiotherapy.
Two years later the PSNI constable was compulsorily retired from the force.
A wide-ranging claim for damages was lodged against the other motorist, who admitted a charge of careless driving.
The court heard how the plaintiff has since studied to become a counsellor or psychologist.
Mr Justice Deeny also drew attention to disability living allowance (DLA) forms which featured in the case.
The woman has received around £35,000 in benefits over the years, he pointed out.
Referring to exaggerated complaints, he noted that she claimed a local politician helped her fill one in.
Her complaints included having dizzy spells and stumbling three times a day - a case never made to her doctors.
She also claimed this had been written by the politician’s benefit adviser after questioning her.
The plaintiff could give no satisfactory explanation for a claim that she was virtually unable to walk, the court heard.
She tried to blame the adviser who said she should describe her worst day.
Stressing her education and previous career, the judge said: “She had been a serving police officer for nearly a decade.
“The willingness to exaggerate in a way that I find quite blatant makes it difficult for the court to place any reliance on her word unless otherwise corroborated.”
According to Mr Justice Deeny the loss of her police earnings would have provided a motive.
“These were not ‘maladaptive complaints’ to a doctor but studied exaggeration,” he added.
It was set out how she received around £160 a week between 2005 and 2008.
Despite his findings, the judge held that the case was not exceptional enough to warrant a refusal of compensation.
Based on medical evidence he said she was enduring pain and suffering for longer than a 12-18 month period normally expected.
The plaintiff does have other degenerative changes to her back which could justify continuing complaints, he added.
Awarding a total of £45,000 in general damages, Mr Justice Deeny urged the parties to try to agree on a futher figure for financial loss.
That sum will be to cover a three years and two month period when the plaintiff was held to be unfit for work due to the defendant’s careless driving.