Law Society hits back at insurance industry

At long last the Law Society is fighting back against the misinformation being peddled by the insurance industry.

The Law Society has stated that claims the country is in the grip of a ‘compensation culture’ are a myth.  

The Society is responding to a report from the ABI (Association of British Insurers) that said Britain has a ‘have a go’ compensation culture. Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said today’s report by the ABI pumps up the myth about a so-called ‘compensation culture’ and is entirely self serving to the insurance industry:

‘The claim that there are ‘ambulance chasing lawyers’ manipulating the system is utterly unpersuasive. If this is happening why are the insurers not acting and challenging these cases in the Courts? It is nonsense and the ABI should know better.’  

Lawyers exist to ensure that people get their just compensation and are not manipulated by the insurance industry. Does anyone seriously believe that insurers would pay out claims unnecessarily?’

‘The law in this country sees to it that those who are harmed by the negligence of others are entitled to fair compensation. They are not entitled to make a profit from their loss. This is just and it is fair. It is how reasonable insurers seek to settle claims.’

‘Our concern is that these proposals will mean that many people who suffer loss and damage will not be able to get compensation and the insurance industry will not have to pay anything out. You can see why the insurance industry might support such proposals.’

‘The losers will be those victims of poor care in hospitals or negligent employers who need and deserve compensation for often serious and debilitating injuries. This is far from a ‘have a go’ culture.’

‘Only a year ago Lord Young in his report to the Prime Minister on these issues found that there was no such thing as a compensation culture. He found instead that there was a perception of such a culture – often fuelled by misreporting and assertion.’

‘Given that the report is so recent, it is bizarre that the ABI should fuel this misreporting – and spread obfuscation and confusion – on serious issues of public debate.’  

‘It is good to see that the ABI recognises that referral fees should be abolished – a position held by the Law Society- but the fact is that the insurance industry itself has been taking such fees by selling these cases to the highest bidder and has been profiting from accidents as a result.’

‘It is also wrong to suggest that people do not need lawyers. Without an independent lawyer representing them, victims are at the mercy of insurers who have every incentive to pay as little as possible, irrespective of the real needs and rights of the victim. Again, it is easy to see why it is in the interests of the insurance industry to offer settlement to claimants before they have legal advice and to seek to get rid of lawyers who help people get their rights.’ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insurance industry blames personal injury victims for rise in car premiums – again

In the fight to dispel the myth of the compensation culture, we need to respond to the latest piece of insurance industry propaganda which received a ‘fullsome and fawning’ full-page leader in today’s Scottish Daily Mail by Ray Massey, the paper’s transport editor.

Lest we fall victim to the insurance industry’s marketing machine, we need to remember that insurance is a business, that the insurance industry can set any price it likes for its products and that we, the public, have to bear the brunt. Let’s be absolutely clear on this – the insurance companies set the prices…and they decide who to blame for the increase.

Why is it that rising premiums are never, ever the result of a decision to increase profitabilty and maximise shareholder value?….They are always BLAMED on something and / or someone else.

Now, read on…please.

Mr. Massey, quotes extensively from an AA (insurance) report:

‘The £1,000-a-year bill for car insurance is round the corner as booming fraud and ‘abhorrent ambulance chasers’ drive up costs.’

Not content with scaremongering on the cost of car insurance, the AA report and the Mail attempt to tar the legal profession as ‘abhorrent ambulance chasers’. Bonnar & Company does not chase ambulances – we and other reputable law firms fight for an accident victim’s right to sue those responsible for their injuries – a principle which is enshrined in law, incidentally.

Accident victims know that compensation is not delivered to them on a plate, as anyone who has ever tried to make any kind of insurance claim will readily appreciate. People have to fight for their rights and without solicitors like us claimants would be at the mercy of the insurance companies who would simply decide what level of compensation, if any, to offer. Is this fair? Is this justice? We don’t think so. 

If the insurance companies had things their way villagers with pitchforks and flaming torches would even now be forming angry mobs to hunt down and exterminate claimant lawyers. Fortunately for the rest of us who pay premiums and actually expect protection, the insurance companies don’t have things all their own way YET – and this is precisely the reason they pump out one-sided half truths like this feature on a regular basis. They are absolutely desperate to stigmatise accident victims and their legal representatives. 

(Just check the archives of the Daily Mail and many other papers to get a flavour of how the insurance industry operates and what they would have us all believe about personal injury solicitors)  

THE REAL HEADLINE IS:      

Insurance companies don’t like paying out on insurance claims!!!

They positively hate personal injury lawyers and that goes double for firms like Bonnar & Company – we are pleased to say. Well who can blame them when we keep giving them a bloody nose – figuratively speaking of course. Well we don’t care and neither do our clients.   

The article continues:

‘The AA says driving up the cost of cover is increasing fraud – including staged ‘cash for crash’ accidents – and more personal injury claims fuelled by ambulance-chasing lawyers and controversial ‘no win, no fee’ claims firms.

Adding to the costs is the ‘black market’ trade in details of potentially valuable accident ‘victims’ which are bought and sold across the insurance industry for tip-off fees of up to £1,000 – a practice condemned by Transport Minister Mike Penning as ‘abhorrent ambulance chasing’ – that phrase again.

A report by the House of Commons transport select committee last month criticised the cash-for-contacts culture that means within hours of an accident, motorists’ personal details are being sold and resold for under-the-counter referral ‘fees’ – to lawyers, medical experts and accident management companies.

Let’s pause for a minute here. Who, exactly is trading details of car crash victims?

The motorists themselves perhaps?

No. How could they and why would they? All they want is their car back on the road fast.

The police?

 Hardly.

The lawyers? 

No. They don’t have details of an accident until someone contacts them…unless they have spy cameras set up at every road junction in the land.

Which leaves…THE INSURANCE COMPANIES!

Think about it. Who is first to get the full details of a road traffic accident?

The report then makes much of the ‘fact’ that ‘Motorists are then bombarded with hard-sell calls from ‘no win, no fee’ firms offering to act on their behalf.’

What about the hard sell calls from insurance companies offering to settle a claim before the victim has had a chance to undergo a proper medical examination? We have seen many cases where clients have been approached directly by the other motorist’s insurance company seeking to settle quickly with a seemingly enticing offer. 

However, the problem here is that if the accident victim accepts the insurance company’s initial and inevitably low offer, that’s it. Even if medical complications arise further down the line the injured person cannot make any further claim. 

The report continues:

‘The AA said despite the number of collisions on UK roads falling, the number of claims for whiplash injuries continued to rise, with more than 200 claims a day, often for accidents from up to three years ago with injuries mentioned for the first time.

The Association of Chief Police officers said there were 30,000 staged accidents in 2009 committed by ‘sophisticated fraud rings’.

Perhaps we should ask the AA to define ‘often’.

Did the police prosecute any, some or all of these 30,000 fraud cases in 2009? 

Undetected fraud topped £930million a year and added an estimated £39 to the average policy.

Eh? Or as we say in Scotland – whit? How on earth does the AA know the value of ‘undetected fraud’

The Scotish Daily Mail article continues:

”The Association of British Insurers warned that motor premiums would continue to soar unless action was taken to curb the cost of personal injury claims. Well they would, wouldn’t they?

Nick Starling, the ABI’s director of general insurance and health, said: ‘The Government’s recently announced plans to reform civil litigation will go a long way to cutting out unnecessary and disproportionate legal costs and should lead to cheaper motor insurance in the future.’

What he conveniently omitted to say was that Lord Young’s Review – ‘Common Sense Common Safety’ stated clearly that there is no compensation culture.

On page 19 of his report, Lord Young wrote:

‘The problem of the compensation culture prevalent in today’s society is, however, one of perception rather than reality.’

Mr. Starling however ploughs on regardless and is quoted as saying:

‘What we now need is a ban on referral fees – where details of potential personal injury claimants are sold on to solicitors and claims management firms.’

What next Mr. Starling? Would a ban on claims be to your liking?

Perhaps Mr. Starling can tell us who is selling details of potential personal injury claimants to claims management companies in the first place?

 

We will no doubt be dragged kicking and screaming back to this subject, but for now we would just like to make four points in conclusion, by way of redressing the balance and injecting some degree of reality and proportion into the debate.

 

1.

The AA report which was quoted extensively in the Scottish Daily Mail article states that ‘despite the number of collisions on UK roads falling, the number of claims for whiplash injuries continued to rise’, which would lead the reader to conclude that car accident claim fraud is rife.However, the Department of Transport’s official ‘Report on Road Casualities in Great Britain – 2008’ makes the point that the number of road traffic accidents reported to the police is only part of the story.

Whereas approximately 234,000 road traffic accidents were recorded in the official police statistics in 2008, the Department of Transport estimates the total number of road traffic accidents to be in the order of 800,000. The full report can be studied on the Department’s website. 

See section 5 of the report for a comparison of police statistics and other sources, which suggests that the vast majority of road traffic accidents do not result in compensation claims…a finding which is in line with a study of accident claims across the board, undertaken by the CAB, which found that over 65% of accident victims never make a claim.

 

2.

Successful claims for accident compensation rely on something called EVIDENCE.

If there is no evidence and in particular, no medical evidence then there is no claim, period. If there is evidence then there COULD BE a claim, but much detailed work still has to de done by the claimant’s solicitor to determine the strength of the evidence and therefore the strength of the case. If the accident victim is partly to blame then the courts will take contributory negligence into account and assess the award of any damages accordingly.

There is no automatic right to compensation and the insurance companies know this, otherwise why would they bother fighting claims? If compensation was a right and all victims had to do was present a ‘claim ticket’ at a High Street cash point there would hardly be any need for lawyers on either side – the ‘right’ is the right to seek compensation, not get it.  

 

3.

Which brings us neatly on to the role of the insurance company lawyers. Insurance companies pay top dollar to big law firms to defend their clients against accident victims’ claims. This is of course a cost which they of course BLAME on the victim, naturally. The insurance company legal team exist to repudiate and minimise the value of compensation claims and if the claimant hasn’t accepted the insurance company’s ‘low ball ‘ initial offer, they will fight tooth and nail over a long period to drag things out and undermine genuine claimants with the aim of making the claim ‘go away.’

This is of course why firms like Bonnar & Compnay exist. Our job is to help accident victims achieve justice and financial compensation. Incidentally, we carry all the up front costs of litigation so that injured people are never out of pocket and have access to the best possible legal representation at no cost to them, no matter how long it takes to force an insurance company to make a fair offer on a genuine claim.   

NB

Bonnar & Company only ever works on behalf of genuine claimants. The very, very small number of potentially doubtful claims that we come across never, ever see the light of day. It is perhaps worth stating that the major headline grabbing spurious claims for mega compensation resulting from apparently trivial injuries inevitably and almost universally always get kicked out by the courts, if they ever get that far that is. However, don’t expect to read in the papers about the downright ‘daft’ or fraudulent claims that fail – they don’t make good copy.     

 

4.

 Why are insurance companies paying out on fraudulent car accident claims?

ARE THEY REALLY PAYING OUT ON FRAUDULENT CAR ACCIDENT CLAIMS, OR ARE THEY JUST SAYING THAT THEY ARE TO MAKE A POINT?

They can’t have it both ways.

Either they are paying out on fraudulent claims which would be an absolute scandal or they aren’t which means there is no problem with fraudulent claims.

Mmmm. Answer on one side of the paper only please Mr. Starling…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act – Scottish editors please note that it came into force last month, by the way…

Despite a deliberately populist headline, the official Scottish Parliament press release on The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act (see full transcript below) has attracted absolutely no media coverage in Scotland as far as we can tell… 

We think this is a gross oversight, particularly in the wake of the horrific dog attack suffered last week by seven year old Hamilton schoolboy Jude Keir.

Perhaps the press release shouldn’t have been sent out on a Saturday – hardly a ‘hot news’ day – so the lack of coverage is hardly surprising.

This is a real shame to say the least given the fact that this groundbreaking legislation has been praised by all shades of the political spectrum in Scotland and both sides of the border. In our view, the Scottish parliament has lost a golden opportunity to raise public awareness of the new legislation and highlight the zero tolerance of dog owners who allow their animals to attack innocent people.

What we find inexplicable is that the politicians who introduced the bill and supported its progress through the Scottish Parliament did not think it was important to get their message out there and ensure that in the aftermath of Jude’s injuries, the resulting press coverage contained a detailed explanation of the Act and delivered a strong warning to all dog owners about their dog’s behaviour.

The new law, which applies to all public places and private homes now focuses on the deed and not the breed and we sincerely hope that it has the desired effect.  

 

Dog asbos can be issued from today
26/02/2011

Dog owners who allow their pets to become out of control in a public or private place could be issued with a ‘dog control notice’ from today as new legislation comes into force designed to crack down on delinquent dogs and their owners.

The changes to the law come after a Control of Dogs Bill, brought forward by Christine Grahame MSP, was voted through unanimously by the Scottish Parliament last year.

Under the new legislation action can be taken against any dog owner who permits their dog to become out of control.

The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 adopts a ‘deed not the breed’ approach in tackling irresponsible dog ownership. It also highlights the central responsibility of the dog owner in controlling behaviour. The aim is to identify out of control dogs at an early stage so that measures to change their behaviour – and that of their owners – can be implemented before any dog becomes a danger to the public.

The 2010 Act also makes a change to the existing criminal offence of allowing your dog to be dangerously out of control. This change is designed to ensure dog owners can be held to account when they fail to take control of dogs who become dangerous and attack.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

“Out of control dogs can be a real nuisance in communities across Scotland. What starts off as intimidating or antisocial behaviour can sometimes quickly turn into a potentially dangerous situation.

“The aim of this act is to nip it in the bud at an early stage so that action can be taken against dog owners who allow their pets to become out of control.

This is designed as a preventative regime and we don’t expect thousands of dog control notices to be issued every week.

“That said, irresponsible owners are being given a clear message today that their actions will not be tolerated and they now face consequences if they flout this new law.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring our communities are protected from dangerous dogs, which is why we, along with all other parties, supported the measures contained in Christine Grahame’s Control of Dogs (Scotland) Bill – passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament last year.

“The provisions contained in this Act will give additional powers to local authorities to take action against out of control of dogs, help improve dog behaviour and place clear responsibilities on dog owners. We hope the implementation of this new legislation will lead to a reduction in the number of dog attacks which continue blight our communities each year.

“A dog owner has to be responsible for their dog at all times, including in their own home. This is especially important when small children are also in the home. The change to the Dangerous Dogs Act offence so a dog owner can be held criminally responsible where a dog is found to be dangerously out of control in any place is to be welcomed as this reinforces the need to be a responsible dog owner and control your dog at all times.”

Terror as dog attacks seven year old Hamilton boy at school gates

A boy of seven suffered horrific head and eye injuries in a savage dog attack outside his school yesterday.

Jude Keir was set upon by a Staffordshire bull terrier just seconds after he left the playground with pals. He went to pet the animal, which suddenly pinned him to the ground and attacked.

Last night, his parents said Jude could have been killed and they thanked hero parent Chris Hemming and a mum who managed to drag the dog off.

Dad Derek, 37, said: “If it had not been for them, my son could have lost his eye or been killed. We can’t thank them enough.

2″Jude was pinned down and screaming. We know we have been very lucky. The hospital had a worry with his eyelid being totally split, but we are hoping he can make a full recovery.”

Parents and children were left traumatised by Tuesday’s attack outside Woodhead Primary School in Hamilton.

Last night, hero dad-of-two Chris, 34, told how he and an unidentified mum fought to get the dog off the youngster.

He said: “One minute things were normal, the next I heard really savage snarling and growling. I looked over and the dog had pinned something to the ground. I thought it was another dog, but then I saw it was a boy and heard ear-splitting screams.”

“I ran over and yanked at the lead. The dog was out of control. It was barbaric. I had to use my full strength. I remember thinking that if its jaws had locked I could be doing more harm than good, but I had no choice. I finally got the dog off and the boy was covered in blood. I couldn’t see how bad the injuries were. It was horrific.”

Another mum who witnessed the attack said last night: “If that man and the other woman had not been there to help, that wee boy would have been killed. It was not going to stop.”

Jude, who celebrated his seventh birthday just 10 days ago, had been walking out of school when the dog – which was on a lead but not muzzled – ran to him. The owners later told other parents they had only had the animal for a day.

Jude was rushed to Wishaw General Hospital, then transferred to Yorkhill Sick Kids Hospital in Glasgow, where he had 40 stitches put in a horrendous eye wound.

The dog has been reported to police and officers revealed that a man of 50 and two women, aged 24 and 26, would be the subject of reports to the procurator fiscal.

The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act comes into force this year and we wait to see if the full force of the law will at last be brought to bear on people who put the public at risk of serious injury and even death by keeping such powerful and potentially lethal animals.

Bonnar & Company has a specialist team set up to deal with dog attacks on adults and children and we can be contacted for free legal advice on 0800 163 978.   

UK asbestos law not up to Euro standard

The UK version of a European Union-wide law on asbestos safety is illegally lax and must be amended, the government has been told last week.

The TUC, which had warned against the dilution of essential safety measures, said the European Commission (EC) ruling nails the myth the UK ‘gold-plates’ Euro laws.

Last week’s ‘reasoned opinion’ from the EC, in response to a complaint about inadequacies in the UK law, gives the government two months to amend the law or face possible action at the EU’s Court of Justice. It says the UK misinterpreted requirements on ‘sporadic and low intensity exposure to asbestos’ to justify the exclusion of considerable amounts of asbestos work from asbestos licensing, health assessments and exposure recording requirements.

The EC announcement, warning of court action if the government fails to act, notes: ‘The UK legislation currently focuses on the measurement of exposure to asbestos and not enough on the how the material will be affected by the work itself, while the directive deals with both exposure and the material.’ 

The problem of UK workers’ exposure to asbestos will be with us for a very long time and we are heartened to note that the EC has expressed its dissatisfaction with the UK’s recent interpretation of the regulations. It is a sorry state of affairs indeed when workers in this country have to rely on external interventions to secure adequate occupational health safety standards.

Bonnar & Company specialises in workplace accidents and illnesses and we would be happy to discuss the circumstances of your claim free of charge and without obligation.

You can contact us on freephone: 0800 163 978