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September 6, 2011

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Lawyers’ body attacks insurers over compensation-culture myths

The Law Society has accused the insurance industry of spreading obfuscation and confusion about the existence of a compensation culture.

The row surfaced following the publication of a report by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which calls for an end to the UK’s ‘have a go’ compensation culture. The report also urges the Government to implement Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals to reform the compensation system in full, via the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which is being scrutinised in the House of Commons today (6 September).

According to the ABI, the growth in spurious and exaggerated personal-injury claims and excessive legal costs has resulted in higher costs for consumers, local authorities and the NHS, as well as making it harder for genuine claimants to obtain compensation.

The report describes employers’ liability claims as one of the key drivers of overly bureaucratic approaches to managing health and safety. It explains: “Responsible employers seek to prevent injury and ill health and recognise their responsibility to make amends rapidly where significant harm does occur. However, their focus on managing risk is distracted by a proliferation of small claims that, in the current system, are simply not cost-effective to defend. These claims are encouraged by claims management companies and trade unions, fuelled by referral fees.”

Commented Otto Thoresen, ABI’s director-general: “Compensators, such as insurers, retailers and local authorities, are committed to paying genuine claimants as quickly as possible. But, too often, this happens despite the system, not because of it. People can get more money quicker by claiming directly from insurers, but ambulance-chasing lawyers can still manipulate the system.

He described the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill as providing “a much-needed opportunity to mend our broken compensation system to ensure a better deal for genuine claimants, taxpayers, local authorities, the NHS and businesses alike”.

Responding to the report, the Law Society described it as “entirely self-serving to the insurance industry” and accused the ABI of pumping up the myth about a “so-called compensation culture”.

Said the organisation’s chief executive, Desmond Hudson: “Only a year ago Lord Young, in his report to the prime minister on these issues, found that there was no such thing as a compensation culture. He found, instead, that there was a perception of such a culture – often fuelled by misreporting and assertion.

“Given that the [Young] report is so recent, it is bizarre that the ABI should fuel this misreporting and spread obfuscation and confusion on serious issues of public debate.”

Hudson went on to highlight the negative consequences that the Society believes the Legal Aid and Punishment of Offenders Bill will have on access to justice. “While we agree with the ABI’s report that there can always be improvements to the system – and we believe, in particular, that claims management companies have no useful role to play in the system – the current government proposals in the Legal Aid and Punishment of Offenders Bill will mean that many victims will lose their opportunity to gain the compensation they deserve. As a result, many will end up on state benefits, causing a drain on the public purse rather than claims against insurers.”

He added: “It is also wrong to suggest that people do not need lawyers. Without an independent lawyer representing them, victims are at the mercy of insurers, who have every incentive to pay as little as possible, irrespective of the real needs and rights of the victim.”

The ABI report has the backing of a number of retailers and business organisations, including EEF – the manufacturers’ organisation, Asda, Whitbread, Ford and Argos, as well as the British Safety Council, the Forum of Insurance Lawyers and Lloyd’s.

Entitled ‘Tackling the compensation culture: The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill’, the report is at www.abi.org.uk/Publications/57764.pdf

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David
David
12 years ago

As someone who manages claims for a medium sized organisation I am with the ABI on this and believe it is the legal fraternity that are selve serving. The amount of “try on” claims is definitely on the rise as it is being pushed constantly by the claims companies and our legal friends are making a mint out of it – at everyone elses expense! In my experience you don’t need a lawyer to make a claim, if it is genuine as insurers are keen to be seen to be fair and transparent.

John
John
12 years ago

Insurers now sell details to lawyers so they can get the injured party to claim against the insurers client, the lawyers insure for no win no fee – this is wrong the insurers are driving this machine. I now get many times more claims than a few years since but we successfully defend the majority at a cost. The small claims are the worst as it is cheaper to settle than fight even when we haven’t done anything wrong

Jonnyb
Jonnyb
12 years ago

Mr Grumpy.

Your words would no doubt be more re-assuring if they weren’t a marketing slogan for a Claims Management company.

Pragmaticrisksolutions
Pragmaticrisksolutions
12 years ago

Simple – “If there’s blame, there’s claim”. Disclosure of the correct documentation at the pre-action protocol stage will mitigate or even counter such claims. You know the documentation that proves the company doe’s in fact care about their employees, Occupational Health and Safety.
It’s the many unscrupulous companies and cavalier management that need to be investigated by the HSE! Leave the Lawyers alone.

Ray
Ray
12 years ago

If you ask me it is six of one and half a dozen of the other. Both insurance companies and accident claim lawyers use insidious practices when it suits – they deserve each other.

Incidentally, the correct legal phrase is ‘no claim without blame’ and is the cornestone of the tort of negligence.

Ray
Ray
12 years ago

There are many practices in this industry which are undesirable. Most have evolved due to unforeseen aspects of legislation or simply the Emperor’s new clothes scenario. I am also a great believer in personal responsibility and not just in health and safety.

Hopefully the authorities can redress the balance through legislation so that some semsblance of common sense returns to society.

Tinamorgan991
Tinamorgan991
12 years ago

I have worked as a Claims Inspector and a Health and Safety Advisor and I have seen this from both sides. There is a claims culture out there and it was fuelled originally by the reduction of Legal Aid and the increase in ‘No Win No Fee” Solicitors. As a Claims Inspector I saw a large increase in the number of cases I was expected to handle and now as a H & S Advisor I see an increased blame culture among employees, it seems that no one can take responsibility for their actions any more.