Jack Straw aimed a kick at the wrong target when he bemoaned activities of claims companies and lawyers in referral fee investigation.

 

Thus, at a stroke, Djanogly kicked into touch the key finding of Lord Young’s 2010 report on the Compensation Culture (see our other blog posts) i.e. that there is no compensation culture (page 26 of the report) – it is the figment of the popular press’ imagination, aided and abetted by the insurance industry. 

 

 

Mr. Straw, the Labour MP for Blackburn, said the scandal was hitting ‘perfectly law-abiding people’ with sky-high insurance costs…

 

and what about the perfectly law-abiding people who will find their access to justice cut off?

 

Mr. Straw, whose own investigation (bit of a ‘cult of Jack’ going on here) into how even the police are taking tip-fees, prompted the select committee to re-open its earlier enquiry, said: ‘What I am clear about is that of a total of about £9billion premium income, £2billion is costs caused by people who can be accurately be classed as the parasites in the system.

 

How is he clear about this again? Didn’t HE read Lord Young’s report?

 

Mr. Straw told MPs that the previous night, while he was preparing his evidence to the committee, he had been phoned at home by a claims accident company seeking to represent him over an alleged accident  in the last three years: ’I’d not had an accident in the last three years,’ he told MPs.

‘But it shows the relentless pressure inside these very dodgy firms.’

 

Yes Jack, but you like countless others did not claim, nay COULD NOT CLAIM BECAUSE YOU HADN’T HAD AN ACCIDENT – GEDDITT?

 

Mr. Straw added: ‘Claims management companies are parasitic. In any other walk of life, we would describe this racket by referral companies as bribery.

‘These practices are leading to very substantial (insurance) increases on law-abiding motorists.’

 

Jonathan Djanogly said the Government intended to band the ‘merry-go-round’ of referral fees which have sent premiums rocketing.

 

He noted: ‘You only have to turn on daytime TV to see lots of dodgy solicitors’ firms which are part of this racket.’ He said there were two firms of solicitors within 100 yards of his own front door offering ‘£600 for a referral.’

 

Memo to Justice Secretary:

If dodgy solicitors are advertising on tv, then bring them to justice now!! Haven’t you heard about the Advertising Standards Authority?

 

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly told the committee the Government’s decision to ban the ‘merry-go-round’ of referral fees was ‘appropriate’ and had been ‘generally welcomed’.

 

Referral fees were part of the ‘sick, suing culture’ that was keeping premiums artificially high: ‘We want the benefit to feed through to the consumer in the form of lower premiums.’…and fair compensation settlements!!! 

 

He believed the Government’s reforms would bring commons sense to the system by weeding out greedy claims, noting how under the current system: ‘If you are a claimant and have no chance of losing, you are almost crazy not to sue. Why wouldn’t you? That’s what we propose to reverse.’ 

 

This is getting rather tiresome. Will somebody PLEASE tell the UK Justice Minister that an injured person wishing to make a claim has to actually prove negligence? Ye gods – does he think that people claiming compensation just have to ask the insurance companies nicely?

 

Keen to get in on the act, or is it the feeding frenzy, roads Minister Mike Penning condemned the claims firms as ‘ambulance chasers’ noting: ‘As a human being I find it very difficult that any organisation would seek to profit from others’ injury. Yet fifty per cent of claims are personal injury claims.’ 

 

This comment is about as crass and unthinking as it is possible to get, even for a government minister.

 

Critics say soaring premiums are tempting some to drive uninsured – with an estimated 1.3 million drivers now on the road without insurance.

 

A word anyone about insurance company profit margins or their active participation in and encouragement of referral payment schemes?

 

MPs on the Transport select committee report have already condemned the current system as ‘dysfunctional’. We take it they mean the claiming ‘thing’ and not Mr. Djanogly’s department…although that story isn’t over yet, not by a long way.

 

Paul Evans, chief executive of insurance company AXA UK, said increases had slowed to about a 1 to 2% rise a month but added:’ we shall continue to see continuing increases in the months to come

 

aye right enough, as he squeezes every ounce of profit out of claimants before his game is rumbled by a myopic government and an enraged public who aren’t as gullible as he thinks.

‘Caveat emptor’ – what next for access to justice in the UK now that the sale of law firms has started?

What price justice? What price fairness? What price independent legal advice?

 

Perhaps a better question is what value should we place on qualified legal advice delivered by independent, professionally qualified and rigorously (in this country at least) regulated solicitors.

 

We think it’s a question worth asking because the legal services market in the UK is on the threshold of a major shake up, the ramifications of which can only be guessed at…but actually we don’t need to guess, because the future of legal services is currently being shaped by a few key players in the US.

  

Attention all UK solicitors:

  

Legalzoom, the nemesis of US law firms  and Rocket Lawyer, have a lot of money, a lot of entrepreneurial flair and a lot of ambition. They are coming to a market near us soon.

 

They are going to ‘eat our lunch’ and it ain’t gonna be pretty, no siree Bob.

 

Make no mistake – they have no qualms whatsoever (and why should they?) about carving themselves a nice slice of the UK legal services market. 

 

So who should care?

 

Solicitors, obviously…but who really cares about solicitors other than other solicitors?

 

Actually our clients do, that’s who…and here’s why.

 

If independent solicitors wither on the vine and die off, then access to justice will be the real casualty and the British public will be the real victims – not the beneficiaries….caveat emptor!! 

 

Before it’s too late, independent solicitors need to get on the front foot and fast on this issue. If the British public isn’t to be hoodwinked into believing that the brave new world of ‘anyone can do legal stuff’ is a good thing, solicitors, the people with the knowledge and the tradition of ethical, professional service – ABSOLUTELY MUST GET THEIR MESSAGE ACROSS.

 

…and as for the anticipated legal services invasion from across the pond; well, ‘grow a pair’ and prepare to fight for survival.

 

Nobody owes us a living but we owe it to our clients to stay in business and defend their legal rights.

 

What price strategies for the survival and growth of independent solicitors?

 

We think that developing a new way of thinking about the business of being in business as a lawyer is the only alternative to Alternative Business Structures…

 

We intend to be around for a long time yet and we hope you do too.

One in five construction workers at risk says UCATT

 

(Photo: UCATT)

In a hard-hitting new report, UCATT, the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, has found that almost one in every five construction workers is now classified as ‘at risk’.

 

Based on a review of the current enforcement regime and interviews with construction workers, ‘The hidden workforce building Britain’ says many are working in ‘slavery like’ conditions, wait in car parks to get work as day labourers and are typically employed in dangerous and unregulated work.

 

The union is calling for the creation of a single independent labour inspectorate, which would cover all industrial sectors.

 

The report argues that this beefed up body, which would police all employment standards, should have sufficient resources to dramatically increase its levels of proactive inspections. UCATT says this would ‘ensure that there is a major crackdown on exploitative employers.

 

The union’s acting general secretary, George Guy, commented: ‘It is time that government and employers accept the unpalatable truths about how the construction industry operates. Only effective regulation by a strong enforcement regime will end exploitation in the construction industry.’

 

Given this government’s attitude towards health and safety in the UK workplace and the current economic climate there is no chance of a new regulatory body being set up to monitor the construction industry labour force. This means that everyone with an interest in construction worker safety has to be extra vigilant and relentlessly ‘on guard’ to check for construction site dangers and hazards to worker’s health.

 

HSE please take note…

 

Bonnar & Company specialises in helping construction workers achieve justice and fair compensation for injury and industrial illness caused by working on site. We work exclusively on behalf of direct employees, sub-contractors, the self- employed and apprentices.

What aisle are the lawyers on mate? – ‘Tesco law’ open for business…

(Photo: Alamy)

 

Is it a good thing that banks and supermarkets are to be able to sell consumer legal services in England and Wales for the first time following a change in the law?

 

Is it a good thing that bailed out banks and greedy discount retailers can get their hands on law firms…or any new business for that matter?

 

Is it a good thing that large institutions with financial muscle and their own agendas will be able to exert influence on a previously independent and regulated sector?  

 

The man from the government (Mr. Djanogly) he say yes…

 

However, we are not so sure he has the first clue about what he is talking about and we are absolutely certain he is not thinking about protecting the legal rights of the ordinary citizen.  

 

The government says the new Legal Services Act will offer more choice and better value for the public and claims that law firms will benefit from investment and allow them to explore new markets.

 

Now, putting the old jokes aside for a minute, we think there are enough lawyers out there to provide consumers with a choice. It’s not as if people are struggling to find a solicitor, is it?.

 

With choice comes value for money. As anyone with an ‘ounce of nous’ knows, when there are a lot of service providers, consumers do well. When the number of providers falls, as it will do if ‘supermarket law’ consolidates legal services under the one brightly lit stainless steel roof, consumers get a worse deal, a much worse deal. 

 

The government says the change would encourage economic growth in the industry and raise the profile of the UK as a first-class legal services market. Hmmm…we thought the UK was already a first class legal services market.

 

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said it was a “landmark day” for the legal industry.

 

(That’s true, if you define landmark as ‘charter for profiteering at the public’s expense.’ )

 

“Our legal services are already rated among the best in the world, used by millions of people around the globe as well as in the UK, and these changes will set them up to move to new heights. They will enable firms to set up multi-disciplinary practices and provide opportunities for growth,” he said.

 

Eh? What? How??

 

“Potential customers will find legal services become more accessible, more efficient and more competitive.” Ye gods. The asylum keys have indeed been handed to the inmates 

 

Under new trading bodies, known as Alternative Business Structures (ABS), lawyers will be able to work in mixed-practices offering financial, legal and other advice, or be based at different kinds of businesses. Well we simply just don’t see a surge of demand from the profession for this new ‘freedom.’ 

 

The government believes that legislation and regulation has restricted the management, ownership and financing of firms providing legal services for hundreds of years. Well, duh? The regulation of the legal profession is the single most effective guarantee that ensures professional standards and ethical conduct for all consumers.

 

Do you think that the burning access to justice issue for the consumer is the financing of legal services?  We don’t either.

 

We echo the comments of Clive Sutton, of the Solicitors Sole Practitioners Group, urged the government to reconsider the “untried and untested innovation” which he said had only previously been adopted by two states in Australia.

 

He said: “The government seem unconcerned that the introduction of Alternative Business Structures puts at risk the independence of legal advice, via the profit interests of commercial owners.”

 

Despite the title Tesco Law, the supermarket has said it has “no current plans to offer legal services”. But the Co-operative was among the first stores to say it was interested in offering a legal business.

 

Similar legislation was passed in Scotland in October 2010 when MSPs at Holyrood backed its Legal Services Bill.

 

You can comment below or record your opinion on our facebook page – http://facebook.com/bonnarandcompanysolicitors

Claiming compensation for personal injury. Myth v Reality -Take 2

Another insurance industry ‘compensation culture’ myth.

 

 

Myth  

 

Most people who claim compensation for personal injury are just looking for a source of extra money in a recession – they should just ‘grin and bear it.’  For people read ‘the undeserving injured…’ 

 

 

Reality  

 

The key issue for the injured person and their family is whether they can afford not to seek damages, particularly if they are unable to continue working or have to change jobs as a result of their accident.

 

In any event, the amount of money awarded is far from being a ‘lottery’ win. In the UK damages in personal injury cases are based on very precise calculations, refined over many years, which reflect the extent of the injury and the earning capacity of the victim.

 

The process is designed with one aim in mind – to put the injured party back to where they were before the accident. Thus a twisted ankle claim will not attract a multi-million pound sum, whereas a brain-injured survivor of a road traffic accident might well receive a very large sum of money to pay for a lifetime of medical care.

 

Insurance companies know this very well and they are not about to sanction overly generous compensation claim payouts under any circumstances. The idea that hurt and injured people are scamming the system and receiving ‘over the odds’ payouts is absolutely ludicrous – but that doesn’t stop The Daily Mail reporting it as fact…

 

We welcome your thoughts on the ‘compensation culture’ and would like to know if you agree with us that the vast majority of accident compensation claims in the UK are made by trustworthy people seeking justice and fairness for themselves and their families.