Today’s featured ‘marketing collective’, with an East Kilbride ‘operation’.
Apparently, a few days ago, in the mythical land of Oz, the AXA man (distant relation to the Tin man) and the Straw man presented a wizard idea to an invited audience. ‘There is no such thing as whiplash’, they declared, ‘even if it existed, which it doesn’t, it doesn’t hurt. If you think something might be wrong and if you hurry, you can see one of our approved doctors over in Munchkin Land who will tell you how to get back to work asap. Naturally, the Wizard will not be paying compensation under any circumstances – premiums are high enough around here, what with accidents happening every day.’
In the aftermath of the Luxor balloon tragedy, I looked at the Guardian Online edition which chronicled the troubled and troubling history of hot air balloon accidents over Luxor and Karnak.
The article noted that in June 2008 four Scottish holidaymakers were injured when the balloon in which they were travelling crash landed. Bonnar & Co. acted for those holidaymakers. I remember thinking how terrible an ordeal it must have been for them and a number of points occurred to me as I looked at the terrible recent news.
1. The tabloid press and some broadsheets routinely scoff over health and safety (“Elf ‘n Safety”) bureaucracy. They long for a return to light touch regulation where everything is just common sense. Light touch regulation of dangerous activities inevitably turns into casualties, particularly where a profit motive is concerned. This is not opinion, it’s arithmetic.
2. The persons we acted for had booked the trip of a lifetime to Egypt using a highly reputable adventure travel company. The balloon trip had not been pre-booked. Instead they had signed up during a welcome meeting organised by the travel company with a person whom they believed was an authorised representative of the adventure travel company.
This is a very common scenario, and I suspect one which involves a money inducement. Following the accident the travel company did everything possible to distance themselves from the excursion. It was not part of the package, the persons had booked independently, and the claim should be directed against the Egyptian balloon company care of some street in Cairo.
The victims would have to proceed via the Egyptian courts. Every lawyer who does this kind of case will know what a familiar tactic this is. They wanted to argue that the person who appeared at the function organised by the travel company and taking bookings for the balloon flight had suddenly become a completely independent contractor for whom the company bore no responsibility.
3. In particular they wanted to claim that the Package Holiday Regulations 1992 did not apply as the excursion was not part of the “package.” Technically they might have been right about that. However, it is useful to remember that the normal law of agency applies in these situations and the company can be held liable for someone whom it may have held out as an authorised representative and agent.
In the event court proceedings had to be raised in the Court of Session in Edinburgh before the case could settle.
These kind of tactics represent our common experience when dealing with the travel industry. Matters never settle without litigation and the industry itself uses every possible loophole to evade responsibility. This is in the hope that persons injured on holiday give up or are otherwise deterred from going to court. Our invariable experience is that it is naïve in the extreme to expect the travel company to do the decent thing.
If something does happen to you on holiday, you are going to have to prove it.
Take photographs, get witness details including mobile phone numbers.
You will almost certainly have to rely on these holiday acquaintances to prove your case.
You probably won’t see this on the holiday brochures, but it is something you should bear in mind.
Written by April Meechan, Associate Solicitor, Bonnar Accident Law.
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.