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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…