The former Labour cabinet minister Jack Straw has been hitting the headlines this week with his exposure of the now widespread practise of buying and selling personal injury claims. The fact that this was happening whilst he was both Home Secretary and more recently the Justice Secretary either seems to have escaped him or doesn"t appear to concern him. That aside, however, he is right to draw attention to the now well established market for the buying and selling of personal injury claims, particularly those arising out of road traffic accidents, and to call for something to be done to stop it.
We should declare our interest here. At Fraser Brown the partners made the decision some years ago that they weren"t going to get involved in the buying and selling of people"s injury claims. The fact that the practise is as widespread as it is doesn"t make it right. Mr Straw says that he has been told that this is the insurance industry"s "dirty secret". We couldn"t have put it any better.
So how does it work? It"s all about "the referral". As soon as the unfortunate motorist is involved in an accident which isn"t his fault he becomes a commodity for those who are involved in the practise of this "dirty secret". His details are "referred" until they end up in the hands of lawyers who are paying as much as £1000.00 for that referral. The insurers are correct when they say that if they didn"t make the referral themselves someone else would. Indeed there is a veritable feeding frenzy of middlemen who want to grab the case and refer it on for their profit. However, the fact that others would do it if the insurers didn"t doesn"t make the practise anything other than their "dirty secret"-one which we at Fraser Brown are happy to see held up to the light and exposed for what it is.
What happens to these injury claims when they have been referred? Ultimately they end up in the hands of lawyers who have made arrangements with the insurers or other middlemen to buy these claims off them. Clients might be told that they "must" use the services of the garage"s lawyers or the recovery company"s lawyers or the hire company"s lawyers or the insurance company"s lawyers. That"s not true at all-but with the amount of money that"s at stake it"s a bit of an inconvenient truth to the middlemen looking to make the referral and they might be, shall we say, a little economical with the truth. The accident victim is a commodity whose claim is sold by the insurers or other middlemen and bought by the lawyers. The insurers will say that the lawyers taking the claims are vetted to make sure that they can do the job. We say that that"s all well and good but ultimately we"re pretty sure that these claims are going to the highest bidder which will mean that a client having an accident in Nottingham has his claim dealt with by Solicitors who are based in another part of the country who he will probably never meet. Is that how an accident victim should get access to justice? We think that there are better ways.
This industry grew up on Mr Straw"s watch but we"re glad that he"s come round to our way of thinking and glad that he"s using his high public profile to expose the practise. The accident victim doesn"t have to have anything to do with this "dirty secret". He doesn"t have to allow himself to be treated as a commodity, bought and sold for the benefit of others who add no value at all to the process. He can (and we would say should) approach his own Solicitor, or if he hasn"t got one get a recommendation from a friend or relative to a Solicitor. We aren"t the only ones who have turned our backs on this "dirty secret". With all due respect to him Mr Straw"s been a bit slow out of the blocks here but we"re glad that he"s starting to catch up.
One final thought. We have clients coming to us whose claims have been referred and who then find themselves dissatisfied with the way their claims are dealt with. They sometimes find a high turnover of the people dealing with their claims. They sometimes complain to us about lack of progress. Sometimes their claim is finished but they aren"t happy with the outcome. We have had people come to us who say that they felt pressured into settling their case. We"ve had people come to us who have been told to settle only to find out at a later date that they haven"t recovered from their injuries as they were told they would. We are always happy to talk to anyone whose claim has been referred and who are unhappy with the way it"s then been dealt with.
At Fraser Brown, we will provide a free initial interview and we will visit you at home or in hospital if necessary. We can advise you on how to bring your claim at no expense to you and with no hidden charges or deductions from your compensation.
Your case will be handled personally by our specialist in personal injury claims who is a member of the Solicitors Regulation Authoritys personal injury accreditation scheme, with more than 25 years experience of dealing with compensation cases.
Please contact Geoff Buck, Personal Injury Solicitor, on 01159 888 777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.