Referral fees in personal injury cases – the real culprits

How would you feel if your solicitor had sold your personal details to an insurance company, a claims management company, a car hire firm or a vehicle repair garage? …Exactly.

…and how would you feel if your insurance company had sold your personal details without your knowledge??

The fact is that insurance companies have been making money this way for years, by selling accident details to third parties.

Now, having been found out, they now have the bare-faced cheek to welcome the proposed government reforms announced last week by Jonathan Djanogly MP, Under Secretary of State for Jusrtice. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is on record as stating that they didn’t actually want to charge referral fees in the first place but felt they had to otherwise someone else would.

Well that’s alright then. What they really meant to say was that they could not possibly ignore a lucrative, no-cost, income generation stream, so why not have the moral fibre to say so?

Then they shamelessly turn the heat up on innocent accident victims claiming that people who have the temerity to actually seek compensation are the main cause of increases in car insurance premiums.

It is really quite nauseating to hear the insurance companies bleat their belated concerns on referral fees from their newly discovered moral high ground.

As personal injury solicitors helping hurt and injured people every day, we regularly have to dispel the myths and set the record straight on what’s involved in making a compensation claim.

We never have and never will pay an insurance company for a road traffic accident claimant’s details and we would be very happy to see the back of referral fees for all types of personal injury cases.  We would welcome much greater transparency at every stage of the claims process, because for the most part most of the public have got it wrong through no fault of their own.

They have been fed a line by the insurance companies that claiming compensation is borderline immoral in this current climate and conversely  ‘sold’ an idea by the claims companies that they only need to register aclaim to be awarded damages. No wonder people are confused…and no wonder most people with a genuine claim still do not make a claim for compensation (The Association of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux research).

The problem,however, is that the current heated debate has not shed much light on the real culprits, namely the insurance industry and claims management firms.

The former uses its slick PR machine to vilify and stigmatise legitimate claimants and actively discourages accident victims from making a claim. The latter get in between claimants and professionally qualified legal advisors and have created a commodity market in accident claims which they seek to trade.

The real losers are the claimants. Many car accident victims are discouraged by their own insurance company from appointing an independent solicitor and furthermore claimants are generally unaware that they are often not dealing directly with a qualified solicitor but with an unqualified and unregulated claims management intermediary who is normally unable to do anything for them other than ‘find’ them a lawyer – at a price…expensive televison adverts have to be paid for somehow. 

The answer is simple. Let claimants shop most are now already doing.

There is no shortage of advice available to help people make an informed choice and by advice I mean proper independent advice such as that provided by the CAB, The Law Society of Scotland, The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers or organisations such as Headway UK – the Brian Injury Association – none of which have a financial interest in recommending the best solicitor for the job.

As a final check claimants should always seek out and study testimonials from satisfied customers of their preferred law firm.