On a daily basis I receive 2-3 calls on my mobile from unknown numbers, I rarely answer. If I decide to take the call, invariably I will be asked about a road traffic accident which I was recently involved in (I wasn’t) or a PPI claim.
What annoys me the most about these telephone calls, is that I am regularly blamed for the same. If I tell anyone that I am a personal injury solicitor one of the first responses I receive is “oh, you’re the guy who phones me up all the time asking if I’ve been injured….” Try as I might to explain that this is not me, that I receive these calls too and this is something I am trying to get banned, I always feel my response falls on deaf ears. Solicitors are strictly prohibited from cold calling or approaching people to encourage them into making claims. We have no large databases with people’s contact information or large scale telephone communications systems to do it.
But hang on; if you think about it, what types of institutions do hold swathes of information about you, in a database of motorists, with all your contact information and personal details…? Large insurance companies! Your contact information has been sold on to a Claims Management Company (for profit) and it is the Claims Management Company (CMC) that you are talking to, not a solicitor.
Annoyed? As you should be, but the Government is about to make changes. In November 2016, The Ministry of Justice began a consultation process to reform the soft tissue injury (“whiplash”) claims process. The purported aims of this process are to introduce measures to crack down on minor, exaggerated and fraudulent soft tissue claims. The idea is to save insurers money and for this saving to be passed onto the consumer when it comes to the renewal of their car insurance premiums (a figure of £40 per year has been estimated).
However, there is a catch. For this saving to be made, significant and far reaching changes to the entire personal injury claim process has been suggested. In summary, this includes the removal of a lawyer’s involvement in all “low-value” personal injury claims (this includes accidents at work and public liability claims). What sum does the MOJ think is “low value”? £5,000 is the answer.
So, if these reforms go ahead and you need to claim because you’ve had your middle finger chopped off, fractured your wrist, or suffered PSTD for 2 years (you’ve probably lost income as well) you’ll be on your own as the likely amount of compensation you will receive for these injuries is less than £5,000. Please realise that the claims process can be complex, you will need help and assistance from a qualified lawyer to have any hope of obtaining the compensation you deserve but you won’t have access to one. You’ll be left alone to fight against a large scale insurer who has the expertise and resources to quite simple hold you over a barrel. Your right to claim and to have access to justice on a level playing field is to be eroded on the false promise of £40 in your pocket (which won’t happen as insurers rarely pass on any cost savings). Oh, and you will still get cold called all the time anyway.
My big issue with the proposed reforms is that they are based on misleading data, false promises and do not in any away address the greatest problem of cold calling. In fact, these changes are likely to result in an increase in nuisance calls as one symptom of the proposed reforms would be a sharp increase of CMCs in the personal injury market who are unregulated and free to cold call you as much as they want. They’ll offer to assist you, but they’ll be unqualified and inexperienced and they charge you 50% of what you might recover.
And your £40? Forget it. The MOJ has already undertaken substantial reforms to the PI market in April 2013. These reforms slashed legal fees paid out by insurers on personal injury claims by over 50% but yet no savings have been passed onto the consumer with respect to premiums. Government figures already show that both the number of claims and the costs of claims have dropped since 2013 but since then your premiums have been on the rise. So there is scant evidence of the insurers acting on pledges to pass any savings onto consumers.
So what’s the answer? Firstly, the prior reforms need time to bed in and a full review of their impact needs to be undertaken as promised by the MOJ. A carpet ban on cold calls and the sale of customer’s data must be immediately put in place and effectively regulated and enforced with appropriate sanctions. Changes still need to be made, but they need to be done for the right reason and in the right way. To obliterate legal rights and access to justice, especially for those who have limited financial resources is simply unacceptable. We need to stop being held to account by insurers who make false promises and only wish to serve their interests of greater profits, dividends and director’s bonuses. They are not on your side and they will not help you.
Please note, the above is a broad synopsis of the proposed reforms and their likely consequences. There are many more implications than those mentioned above and this article is simply to give a basic understanding as to what I think is happening in this regard.