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Blog: Injured people should not be hoodwinked by new insurance company tactic

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Injured people should not be hoodwinked by new insurance company tactic
Deborah Evans | 28 Oct 2015

One of our goals this year has been to try to cut through the rhetoric between insurers and lawyers with the aim of working with each other, rather than positioning ourselves as natural enemies. It’s not always the easiest option, and we have already hit a bump in the road.

Several big, well known insurers have embarked on a new approach - writing directly to the people that their clients have injured, rather than to their lawyers. They send letters asking the injured person to confirm that they have indeed instructed that firm of solicitors (because, they assert, firms sometimes make that sort of thing up). This appears to be a standard letter, rather than targeted towards cases that are in the ‘high risk of fraud’ category. The letters are strongly worded and vaguely threatening. Yes, the honest client has nothing to fear, but the tone of the letter will undoubtedly put off some genuine clients from proceeding.

The injured person is then formally required by the letter to ring up the wrong-doer’s insurer to confirm that they have indeed instructed the solicitor. There is no legal requirement for the injured person to do this, and not phoning the insurer will not prevent the claim from proceeding. But the client will not know this.

Several things are then happening. Firstly, the client is being asked to explain how they instructed the firm - i.e if a referral was made, and by whom. The insurance industry has long wanted this commercially sensitive information and is now demanding that the client provides it in order that the claim can proceed. Again, the client is actually under no obligation to provide this information.

Worse still, we are now hearing reports that when clients contact some insurers, they are then encouraged to stop instructing the solicitor and deal with the insurer direct. The insurers use the 14 day cancellation period tactically to encourage the client to deal with them direct. A measure put in place to protect consumers is now being used against them. This leaves the client unrepresented, with no clear advice as to whether the settlement on the table is good, bad or indeed ugly.

These letters do not play fair. They hoodwink the injured person into thinking that they have to do what is demanded in the letter. Even though the insurer knows that the client is represented, nothing in the letters tells the client to discuss it with their lawyer. This is not about deterring fraud, this is about saving money for the insurers through putting off genuinely injured people from pursuing a claim. It is about saving money through cutting out the lawyers to save legal costs, whilst leaving the injured person bereft of advice and at risk of their claim being under settled.  The whole point of having insurance is to compensate those who get injured through no fault of their own. Not just to offer them a cheque but to compensate them properly, following a medical examination to ascertain whether they are injured, the scale of the injuries, and how quickly they will recover, if at all.

Insurers had started to recognise that offering compensation to clients without them undergoing a medical created an environment of easy money which could perpetuate fraud. Lawyers and medics provide checks and balances. Are we going full circle back to the days where insurers try to tempt clients away from lawyers by showing them an open cheque book with no strings attached? Last time this proved short sighted - driving claims up, and ultimately premiums up.

I am hopeful to discuss such practices face to face with insurers, practices that discredit the industry and undermine the trust between insurer, lawyer and client. Facing such issues head on and having honest discussions is the best way to deal with them.

Past blog entries

Car insurance premiums - a matter of trust?, 31 Aug 2016
New Government, new opportunity?, 11 Aug 2016
Let's mention the good news in the NHSLA annual report, 29 Jul 2016
Reforms in limbo as voting day looms, 13 Jun 2016
Nuisance calls for personal injury - help us 'Can the Spam!', 08 Jun 2016
40 days to prove work history...if only, 11 May 2016
Quality counts, 11 Mar 2016
Whiplash reforms and the small claims limit, 19 Feb 2016

About this blog

Deborah Evans

I'm Deborah Evans, APIL's Chief Executive Officer. I shall be using this blog to keep you informed about campaining and political work carried out by APIL.