Inter Law – Settling Down?Insurers Pressure Claimants to Go Low

Amongst the plethora of different insurance claims that the man on the street can go for, the personal injury claim is surely the most varied in it’s outcome. Being subjective by it’s very nature ? one man’s minor cut could be another’s gaping wound ? means that the upshot of cases can be extremely mixed, and no two are ever the same. But one thing is a certainty whatever case is being dealt with: the amount of cash that the claimant could receive has to be maximised. This truism has recently been dealt a blow by new research claiming to show that insurers are often pressurising claimants to take an early, lower payout.

The trade union Unite has been on the forefront of a battle against outside influences directly contacting the claimants before they have had a chance to consult with independent legal advice: a practise known in the industry as ?third-party capture’. One insurance company, Zurich, offered a claimant £4,000 in ?full and final settlement’ only for the case to be settled later for £35,000. In another case, recently bereaved parents ? they’d lost all three of their children in a road traffic accident ? were offered £21,000 by Dublin-based insurance firm Quinn Direct. The case was eventually settled for £60,000. The reckless and cutthroat tactics used by the insurance companies knows no bounds: the day after suffering whiplash by being rammed by a learner driver, a woman from Stockport was contacted by a representative from Quinn, who offered her a hire car if she agreed to make a claim within the next six months. She claims not to have been aware that she was actually waiving her legal right to make a claim for compensation. Whilst her lawyer Jason London, a partner at Leeds based law firm Morrish, has advised her that the waiver is not legally effective in the courts of law, he is still clearly outraged by the matter: ?A considerable amount of pressure was put on my client. Visiting an accident victim’s house in the aftermath of a car crash is clearly outrageous?.

The case has even gone as far as the Financial Standards Authority. A spokesman has said that they are continuing to investigate just how much customers are affected by the practices of the insurance companies, and will be looking into the dynamics of how the companies work with the clients in order to better appraise the situation. Graham Goddard, the deputy general secretary of Unite, thinks that the case is already closed. ?We have given the FSA compelling evidence? he said. ?Accident victims lose out because if they aren’t receiving truly independent advice, they don’t know the true value of the claims?.

Whilst Norwich Union thinks that around 70% of personal injury claims are straightforward enough not to require specialist independent legal advice, the cases looked at above demonstrate that the differences could be huge. If claiming for an injury, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and get some unbiased help. It may cost initially, but the benefits garnered later on could be pricless.

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