Category Archives: Claims

Should Claims Management Companies and Insurers be barred from being an ABS ?

As I am Managing Partner of a specialist firm of personal injury solicitors, the title alone of this post may make me appear to be a bitter personal injury lawyer, but honestly, that’s not really the case. I’m all for a level playing field and competition is inherently a good thing in all aspects of life.

In many respects, lawyers have only themselves to blame as regards the fact that in many areas of law, we no longer call the shots.

In the personal injury sector, the warning signs started many years ago with Claims Direct. An ex-lawyer decided that, based on lawyers unwillingness to invest in marketing and/or the fact they were constrained on types of advertising, he would do the marketing for us, and would be kind enough to sell us all the leads he obtained for a hefty premium !

Too few lawyers recognised the clear signal from Claims Direct and acted accordingly. The threat did not just apply to personal injury but law generally and in fact, more injury lawyers started marketing than in other sectors of legal practice.

Post Claims Direct

Insurers realised they could make money from lawyers as well, so started selling claims and expecting hefty referral fees. Claims Management Companies were created by other entrepreneurs, realising that there is a funnel whereby in many cases, a vehicle accident repair company can gain the ear of an accident victim first. Once you have the ear of the person, you can then seek to act as a broker.

To that extent, whilst the rules on advertising were relaxed for lawyers, the Claims Management Companies were again ahead of the game, and many resorted to tactics such as data marketing and mass text messaging which were still, thankfully, unavailable to lawyers who wanted to stay lawyers.

So, as can be seen from the above, lawyers are partly responsible for the fact they do not control the market, except perhaps for the very niche area of clinical negligence claims, but partly, those who acts as brokers for claims have exploited the regulation of lawyers so that there has never been a level playing field.

Referral fees banned – lawyers free to compete with each other without outside interference

With referral fees now being banned from next year, on the face of it, this would give injury lawyers an opportunity, for the first time since Claims Direct, to invest in marketing on the basis of a more level playing field, competing only with each other ?

Unfortunately not   – the referral fee ban coincides with the new ABS system which enables non-lawyers to effectively buy and control law firms. So what happens next ? Insurers and claims management companies start buying law firms, using the financial muscle obtained by using methods unavailable to lawyers to outflank and outmuscle remaining independent law firms.

Frankly, I don’t think this is fair – I am all for a level playing field and competiotion in law, but the system is now stacked against lawyers.

If the root cause of the disquiet about personal injury is the sort of tactics utilised by marketing and selling in a way which discredits genuine lawyers, should it not be the case that the root of the problem, which is not generally law firms, are removed from the equation ?

What do you say ?

No win no fee legal aid explained

A ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreement between you and your solicitor is legally referred to as a ‘Conditional Fee Agreement’ or CFA. A CFA is an agreement in which you solicitor agrees to only be paid their fee is your claim is successful. If you lose your claim, then you will not have to pay them, as they are not entitled to any fees unless they win your claim.

Despite this, they are able to recover their expenses in the event of your case being lost, however this is usually covered by your legal expenses insurers for a fixed premium and known as an ‘After the Event’ policy. This can protect you from having to pay disbursements such as the cost of medical or expert witness reports. Likewise, insurance protects you from paying court costs.

The ‘no win, no fee’ system was developed in 2000 by the government, and has took the place of legal aid in accident and injury claims. Claims regarding clinical negligence, abuse or police abuse would still be dealt with by legal aid; however, the introduction of ‘no win, no fee’ has opened up the opportunity for thousands of victims of personal injury, from brain injury to broken bones, to gain access to the courts and receive compensation for the other people’s negligence.

When making your initial claim, the personal injury solicitors will assess the viability of your case, so make to include all details of the injury and the event, as if they think you have a valid claim and a good chance of winning compensation; they will take on your case.

This prevents lengthy court cases in situations where the claim was unlikely to be won in the first place. After your initial claim is processed, you will sign a written contractual conditional fee agreement with your solicitors. Be sure to read this carefully as it will cover all the details of what you pay and when you pay.

There are many types of ‘no win, no fee’ solicitors, many who work in specific categories such as road traffic solicitors, while others work with a broader range of clients. Despite this, not all solicitors are the same. It’s always best to look around online and read reviews before committing yourself to one ‘no win, no fee’ solicitor company.

This will ensure that you get the best possible legal aid for your case and also prevent you from being ripped off. Always be sure you have read through contracts thoroughly and never be pressured into signing anything in a rush. Read the small print.

Can I make an insurance claim if someone assaults me?

Assault can be the most traumatic event you can experience in your life. Cherished possessions can be taken from you, and the physical and emotional damage can take weeks, months or even years to overcome.

While compensation will never put right all the fall-out from an assault, it can at least get you back on track. Many victims are too shell-shocked in the immediate aftermath to even think about making a claim. It pays, therefore, to get your injury compensation advice as soon as possible.

Risk

The good news is that crime is on the way down, but while there was a fall of 7.2% between March 2011 and March 2012 in ‘violence against the person’ – the crime classification encompassing assaults, as well as murder, manslaughter etc. – the amount of offences still stood at 763,000.

The British Crime Survey of 2009/10 suggested 42 in every 1000 men would be a victim of violent crime, while the figure for women was 18 in 1000. While assault is uncommon, and despite the fall in crime rates in the intervening period, the chances of falling victim are still worth worrying about.

Insurance

It is not as simple to go about getting compensation for an assault as you may think. One issue is that you will find yourself needing to go through different insurers to cover your health issues, damage to your property or possessions, and any theft that took place.

Added to that, is the fact many insurers don’t provide cover if, for instance, you were under the influence of alcohol, or acted in such a way as to invite the incident. A cyclist who is barged off their bike before it is stolen may well receive compensation, but if they had it taken while they walked it down the street, the same bike insurance-policy might not pay out.

A consumer report in 2011 highlighted that only 6% of car insurance policies effectively covered ‘road rage’: damage to a car might be covered (though proof that the damage was not brought on by the policy holder may need to be provided), physical assault and emotional trauma may well not be.

Legal action

The best way to seek redress is to make a criminal injury compensation claim. The ways you can claim include:

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)

The CICA is the only way compensation can be received if the victim’s attacker is unknown or cannot pay the damages awarded. That makes it the most common means by which victims seek compensation.

Its definition of assault is strict, and awards tend to be lower, but claims made this way are a good back up if the civil claims below are unsuccessful.

Direct claim against the attacker

Assault does not have to include a physical act. If you believe your attacker intends to commit battery then an assault has taken place.

If you can prove there was reason for you to believe your attacker intended to commit battery then you can make a successful civil claim. But you need to be able to identify your attacker and be sure they can pay out.

Claim against your employer

If you were a victim of assault while at work or carrying out your job, you may be able to make a claim against your employer. To do this you need to prove the risk you were exposed to was unreasonable, foreseeable and could have been prevented.

Make sure you speak to a reputable firm of specialist solicitors such as injurylawyers4u.co.uk before choosing which path to take.