Insurers plan in-depth look at personal injury claims fraud

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 31 March 2015:

The insurance industry through its recently formed Insurance Fraud Taskforce says it has grand plans to look at the personal injury claims fraud issue in depth.

The new taskforce – it was put together in December of last year – released a preliminary report last week alongside the latest Budget. The insurer-led group says it’s got its eye on four select topics in order to keep things both manageable and focused; all in all it says it’s going to be looking at the role of fraud data, policyholder behaviour, fraud deterrents in the claims process and the impetus behind encouraging fraudulent claims in the first place. Both the British Insurance Brokers’ Association and the Association of British Insurers are on board with the project, agreeing to update their fraud prevention guidance by the end of the year.

The goal of the taskforce is of course to reduce fraud when it comes to things like accident claims. Whiplash claims are especially injurious to the insurance industry, thanks to it being exceedingly hard to disprove a diagnosis and that the evidence of whiplash consists mostly in subjective, hard-to-quantify ways. The idea being bandied about by the taskforce is that most of the whiplash fraud insurers are experiencing isn’t from ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers or claimants that are making up injuries out of whole cloth but instead individuals who might have ended up with a legitimate, though minor, injury and make the decision to exaggerate the extent of their pain and suffering in hopes of getting a bit more than they would have from a personal injury compensation award than they would otherwise.

Of course that’s not to say that organised fraud doesn’t play a role as well. We’ve all heard of those ‘crash for cash’ schemes where a ring of scammers get together to stage or cause accidents; it’s so widespread that sometimes even public transport bus drivers get in on the action, but it’s usually easy to spot because most criminals are, to put it mildly, bloody stupid and end up making it obvious that they’re trying to pull a fast one.

Still, it remains to be seen what kinds of solutions this taskforce is going to be able to come up with. Honestly if you ask me I think that as soon as they plug a few holes in the dam another dozen will spring up.

Personal injury lawyers to blame for compensation culture?

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 17 Mar 2015:

Here we go again: apparently personal injury lawyers are to blame for so-called ‘compensation culture’ when it comes to increasing costs for them.

Aviva, one of the largest insurers in the UK, started complaining and whinging about how personal injury compensation claims brought by scammers – and of course all those crafty personal injury solicitors that chase down ambulances and convince all these barely-injured people to make accident claims against these poor, defenceless insurance companies. Yes, that’s right, there’s nothing but scammers and criminals working both sides of the equation according to Aviva.

Now I’m not going to say that there isn’t fraud when it comes to personal injury claims made against insurers. Whiplash claims in particular are a problem, and Aviva says that road accidents have decreased by 30 per cent while claims have increased by 62 per cent. But that doesn’t mean that the majority of injured Brits seeking compensation are thieves and liars!

Honestly, people get hurt all the time, and through no fault of their own. If insurers had their way they would never pay out at all, no matter how badly people ended up injured, but people deserve to be made whole after being injured through no fault of their own. In fact, Aviva had the temerity to complain that 96 per cent of the claims they deal with come from third party claims like injury lawyers.

They complained about it! Are they mad? Of course people seek legal advice after getting hurt! Nobody knows how to represent themselves in court against a defendant with massively deep pockets that can afford high-powered lawyers of its own. I’m sure Aviva would love to just chew up all those self-represented people who were legitimately injured and toss them out on their ear.

Honestly, injured people need the protections of personal injury lawyers so they’re not buggered six ways to Sunday by big insurers like Aviva. Maybe if the insurance industry wasn’t so bloody stingy people wouldn’t need to use lawyers to get what they deserve out of them. I know I’d never go head-to-head with an insurer without the biggest, meanest personal injury law firm I could find.

Personal injury solicitors soak local authority for £1.5m

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 10 March 2015:

Personal injury solicitors have gone to town on Cumbria County Council over the past three years, soaking the authority for £1.5 million in claims.

I have to feel a bit of sympathy for the local authority – the council’s rather cash-strapped as it is, and then it has to deal with a bevy of personal injury claims coming its way that extract a massive amount of cash from its coffers. On the other hand, the council has no one to blame but themselves – according to a Freedom of Information request, the majority of the compensation awards – around £1.3 million – were due to people tripping, falling and suffering from bruises and broken bones because of broken and uneven footpaths or roads that the council should have mended.

People are all up in arms about the massive payouts, and as well they should be – but they should also put things into perspective. Only 22 per cent of the personal injury compensation claims brought against the council actually succeeded. The amount of cash the council didn’t end up paying out likely dwarfs the amount they did – but nobody takes that into account, do they?

Meanwhile, maybe if the authority actually got its potholes filled in a reasonable amount of time this issue wouldn’t have happened. I wonder what would have been more expensive in the long run – employing council workers to go about and mend all those cracks and potholes or paying out on all those accident claims? I’ll wager that the former would have cost Cumbria County Council less, but hindsight is of course 20/20 isn’t it?

I’d like to think that the county learned its lesson from these payouts, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Like I said, Cumbria County Council is particularly cash-strapped right now, and is likely to have to make many of its staff redundant to cut back on its massive deficit. This isn’t going to make maintenance much better – and with the winter finally turning to spring the roadways are likely to be a complete mess after such a wet, soggy season. If I were you I’d be careful where you step!

Swansea Council pays out nearly £60k over three years’ time

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 20 Jan 2015:

Three years, £58,000: Swansea Council just can’t cut a break after running afoul of more than half a dozen of costly personal injury claims.

There’s no rest for the wicked, apparently, as the local authority has had to face a barrage of personal injury compensation claims from April 2012 for claimants who have suffered slip-and-trip injuries on property owned by the council. The massive legal bill has already sparked outrage from those who have a bee in their bonnets about how much money the council is spending on accident claims, but Swansea Council says that as far as compensation bills go it’s not nearly as bad as everyone thinks.

Honestly – and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – I have to agree with the local authority. A spokeswoman for the council rebutted claims that there needs to be a personal injury crackdown by saying the council investigates each and every claim made against it as thoroughly and objectively as possible in order to suss out whether the authority has any legal liability – and it’s only those that rise to the level of liability that the council pays out on.

What this means is that Swansea Council doesn’t like spending taxpayer cash on things like compensation payouts any more than people like to see massive figures in the tens of thousands go out to injured individuals. On the one hand, if someone is injured they have a right to be made whole if it wasn’t their fault, and the responsibility for that lies at the feet of whomever was responsible for their injuries. On the other hand, Swansea is a big place and you can’t possibly expect the local council to police every single inch of pavement to make sure that it’s not going to cause someone to trip on it and break their crown open. This means that it’s inevitable that a few claims are going to show up every year.

Honestly, getting off with less than £20,000 a year in damages for a region the size of Swansea is a bloody miracle if you ask me. It’s obvious that the local council is doing its job as best as it can, and I’m sure the councilors would be quite appreciative if people would stop taking the piss out of them for once.

Massive car accident claim scam uncovered

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 23 Dec 2014:

An absolutely massive car accident claim scam was uncovered recently, with the criminal mastermind behind the fraud sent to prison for his sins.

When it comes to personal injury claims, there’s always some pillock out there who thinks he can get away with murder – well, figuratively anyway. Bashir Zairi from Queen’s Park was one of these brilliant blokes who managed to get away with more than £270,000 in fraudulent personal injury compensation claims money from a ‘crash for cash’ scheme that saw him setting up road traffic accidents to implicate otherwise innocent drivers.

Apparently the 30 year old Zairi decided to target Tesco delivery vans in particular, though heaven knows why; perhaps he figured the firm had plenty of cash to spend, or that he just didn’t like the company. Whatever the reasoning, the man’s luck finally ran out and he was caught – hoisted by his own petard no doubt – and sent to jail for his troubles.

Honestly I’m overjoyed that the bastard was caught. He was absolutely ruining things for the rest of us, and that fraudulent £270,000 that he stole from Tesco’s car insurance company is only going to have to be recovered by the insurer raising its rates for the rest of its customers. It’s one of the biggest problems with fraud when it comes to accident claims, and it drives personal injury solicitors just as mad as it drives insurance firms and regular blokes around the bend. Nobody – and I mean nobody – likes to think they’re being taken advantage of, and with every case of claims fraud that goes uncovered the reputation of countless honest personal injury lawyers becomes even further tarnished.

For what it’s worth, isn’t there enough baseless vitriol directed against the legal profession as it is, especially the personal injury claims sector? Could we just lay the blame where it’s most appropriate, like squarely at the feet of evil, greedy bastards like Bashir Zairi and his ilk? Honestly it’s these types of people that make everyone’s lives harder, don’t you think?

 

Injury claims fraud: not just a lawyer problem by any means

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 9 Dec 2014:

Think that personal injury claims fraud is a lawyer problem? Think again; many times the problem is within exceedingly stupid potential fraudsters.

Don’t believe me? Think about this: someone tried to fake an injury in a Bradford Lidl store, claming he slipped on  a wet plastic bag when he actually just orchestrated the whole thing. Of course, the entirety of his abortive attempt to scam Lidl’s insurer AIG out of ten thousand pounds was caught right on CCTV – and once the insurer caught wind of the evidence it was lights out for the little fraudster that couldn’t.

In a lovely turn of events, now the bloke who thought he was being oh-so clever owes legal fees and court costs of nearly  £9,000. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, if you ask me. Not only that but he has a two-year suspended sentence of 10 months in prison for his attempts to run an insurance fraud – which is, the last time I checked, bloody illegal as well as immoral and unethical. I don’t know, I’ll check again.

Yep, still illegal.

So is it just me or does this seem like the nail in the coffin for the old myth about personal injury solicitors being ambulance-chasing bastards looking to make a quick cash-in completely and totally irrelevant? It seems that every news media story I’ve been reading lately is all about how claimants, acting on their own, have been looking for big payouts. None of these stories mention how the scammers were convinced by their personal injury lawyers to bring phony accident claims.

Honestly that’s just not done any more. The lion’s share of injury lawyers would never even dream of engaging in such underhanded activities; the stereotypical myth comes from those damned claims management companies that had sprung up like weeds a few years back. Now that most of the tactics these CMCs used to operate have been banned, suddenly all these stories of predatory lawyers seem to have disappeared from the major news media cycle. It’s miraculous isn’t it? Almost as if – wait for it – there was no problem in the first place?

Well, the problem was with CMCs, not legitimate law firms. Oh, you know what I mean – stop rolling your eyes.

British bobbies do their best to not get injured on the job

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 28 Oct 2014:

Being a member of a British police force is a demanding job, and sometimes these bobbies get injured in the line of duty – and this results in accident claims.

Work accident claims are common in almost any line of work, but when it comes to jobs that put workers at risk as an inherent part of the job it’s especially prevalent. Sadly, police officers often end up getting the short end of the stick when it comes to being injured whilst on duty, and this often means that there’s more than a few personal injury claims made every year by police personnel.

Usually police officers end up bringing claims against their employer, but in cases when a member of the public is responsible taxpayers can take a break. That’s exactly what happened to PC Anna Fielding when she waded into a personal altercation, only to be thrown to the ground by a Falmouth Docks shipyard worker – the bobby suffered a broken pelvis after she slammed violently to the ground, setting her up for months of painful recovery.

The perpetrator was dragged into court for his crimes, and he new he was nicked; he confessed to everything and ended up being slapped with paying personal injury compensation to the injured officer. On top of that he spent four months in jail and now has to complete 120 hours of unpaid work to pay his debt to society. For what it’s worth, he got off easy – I suppose he’s lucky PC Fielding wasn’t injured worse than she was.

Meanwhile, some cops won’t even sue their own police force if they’re injured in the course of duty. I know you think that sounds ludicrous but it’s true – there are some good coppers out there that actually do believe in what they’re doing. PC Dave Stubbs is one of those police officers. The Cheadle native said he wouldn’t even consider bringing suit against the Staffordshire Police after he broke his wrist as he tackled a drink driving suspect. In fact, the supercop just took a week off from work before returning, though he was assigned restricted duties as he continues to heal.

Could you imagine? This man must be a true idealist. A regular Nicholas Angel, if you’re a fan of Simon Pegg films as it were. There truly are good cops out there, and I can only wish the best for PC Stubbs.

CMC figures down, yet personal injury claims still prevalent

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 26 Aug 2014:

Nobody liked claims management companies, which is why they’re so glad there’s so few of them now – yet their exit has not stopped the injury claims train.

The personal injury compensation world was in a an uproar as early as just a year or so ago when new legislation went into place to effectively ban claims management companies. The regulations crippled CMCs by preventing things such as referral fees, and as a result there are 600 fewer CMCs in the UK than there were just 12 months ago. Most people thought this would end up stamping out things like spurious accident claims and the predations of so-called ‘ambulance chasing’ personal injury solicitors, and I’m sure it’s had a positive effect. No, really I’m sure there are places somewhere in the UK where there’s much less claims activity than there used to be.

Unfortunately one of those places is absolutely not anywhere near the West Midlands. In fact – and this little tidbit of information is going to blow you away – the West Midlands Police totted up something like £600,000 in legal costs over the last year. Yes, the same year that saw claims management companies practically driven from the UK. So what in the world is going on?

Well apparently it was mostly police staff being incredibly clumsy. Slips and trips, injuries from sitting on faulty chairs – whenever it seems there could possibly be something that went wrong last year it must have happened, because that’s a hefty sum indeed. I can only imagine that the entirety of the West Midlands Police go to work with the theme from the Benny Hill Show playing constantly, on repeat, as they go about their daily duties.

I’m sorry, does that sound a bit bitter? I don’t mean to be – I’m just honestly surprised at how high this personal injury bill is. I would have expected to see costs come down for everyone, what with the good news about CMCs falling by the wayside. I suppose it just goes to show you that claims management companies actually weren’t the problem when it came to spurious claims and inflated legal costs. Instead, it seems to be things such as the incredibly clumsy and accident-prone staff of the West Midlands Police!

 

Does everyone waste money on personal injury claims?

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 19 Aug 2014:

Sometimes the prevailing wisdom, when it comes to personal injury claims, is that paying out compensation is a waste of money – and sometimes it turns out correct.

I hate to even admit this, but sometimes I can’t wonder if there aren’t actual spurious accident claims brought by those that are supposedly injured. Notice I’m not pointing the finger at personal injury solicitors, mind you – I’m simply saying that sometimes the money spent on compensation might be better spent elsewhere.

Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about, if I’m being unclear: did you hear recently how the legal bill for Norfolk Police over the last year hit almost £400,000? That’s an amazing amount of money, and much of it was paid out to staff and members of the public that were injured accidentally due to police negligence or equipment failures. Now what I wonder is what could have happened if even half of that figure was spent on equipment, infrastructure, and training expenses for the Norfolk Police? Do you think the same amount of injuries and accidents would have occurred? Somehow I doubt that.

Meanwhile it’s not just huge organisations running on taxpayer money that are guilty of being wasteful. Individuals can be just as to blame, and there’s another story this week that absolutely burned my biscuits after discovering it. Apparently there was an instance where an 18 year old man was rumbled by the fuzz, being caught with drugs on his person. However it wasn’t just a few pills – we’re talking a full 900 tablets of the sedative known as diazepam. 900 bloody tablets! Are you mad? Who walks around with that much on them?

Now, where did this fine young man get the cash to buy such a shedload of drugs? Well, surprise surprise – he had been given a large personal injury compensation award for an accident he was involved in recently. The brainless bloke went out and spent heaven knows how much cash on these drugs instead of doing something useful with them, like paying his bills or depositing it in the bank. What a pillock.

Insurers go to war with injury lawyers, show up unarmed

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 23 Mth 2013:

Sometimes you have to hand it to the insurance industry: they’re so keen to get one over on personal injury lawyers that they’ll go to war with them unarmed.

You probably remember last week when there was a major furore over major insurer Aviva sticking its neck out and proclaiming that the cure for whiplash claims fraud would be to stop paying personal injury compensation awards in cash and simply pay for rehabilitation for the injured. Most people with half a brain were quick to point out how daft a plan that was, simply because there’s no real way to rehabilitate yourself from a whiplash injury besides just letting it heal naturally. In other words, Aviva doesn’t want to pay even a penny towards anyone suffering from the kind of debilitating pain a whiplash injury can result in; it’s just another way the insurer can throw a spanner in the works of their great enemy, the personal injury claims industry.

Meanwhile Aviva took another step this week, practicaslly pleading with the Ministry of Justice to publicly consult on their oh-so-brilliant plan. Anything to stop them from having to pay lawyers fees when they lose a claim! Honestly it’s petty. Meanwhile it turns out that the ‘shedloads of cash’ the company is supposedly losing is actually not that much at all, based on the fact that the number of Brits injured in accidents that actually decide to bring accident claims is minuscule based on a recent research study.

That’s right: YouGov found out that around 25 per cent of injured Brits actually go ahead and make a claim against an insurance company. Not only that but this 25 per cent figure actually dropped over the course of the last year! In other words, nobody’s flooding the courts to get a pound of flesh from Aviva. There is no vast conspiracy on the part of lawyers to send the insurer into the poorhouse, no matter how completely paranoid and barmy the company gets. It might be the largest insurer in the UK, but it’s also the most insane as well if you ask me!

Do local authorities need better personal injury lawyers?

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 17 June 2014:

Is it just me, or are the personal injury solicitors that work for local authorities absolutely rubbish when it comes to defending against accident claims?

Whatever the reasoning, it seems that local councils have been paying through the nose over the last few years on every single personal injury compensation claim that gets made against them. New reports this week revealed that over the past five years alone, Lincolnshire County Council shelled out something like 330,000 pounds – and Sheffield Council paid out an eye-watering 16 million pounds over the same period of time!

Now I’m not going to say anything absolutely stupid like ‘there’s obviously a compensation culture afoot in the UK’ or that ‘councilors are obviously pillocks and need to all be sacked immediately,’ but there’s something fishy here. I have my own personal pet theory when it comes to this – and I think it’s the insurers of these local authorities that are to blame.

I know it sounds mad but hear me out: local councils often contract work out to the lowest bidder in order to stay under budget when it comes to things like infrastructure improvements and things of that nature, so it stands to reason that when it comes to liability insurance and the like they go with the firm that’s offering them the lowest and most affordable premium prices. The problem is that with those cut-rate policies there’s little to no quality legal protection so when there is an accident claim made against the council, the insurer’s team is little more than a collection of chimpanzees banging away on a dozen typewriters, mashing their little paws against the keys in an droll but essentially useless manner. In other words, these accident claims are set up to fail constantly, leading to payouts left and right for both legitimately injured residents and employees and those that may be playing a bit fast and loose with whether or not they’re actually suffering from that slip and trip.

Ultimately of course the big losers here are all of us, as the British taxpayer funds these local authorities. Our hard-earned cash goes funnelling out of council coffers and right into the pockets of the injured. I don’t know about you but I’d rather put that money more towards a better legal team so we can save some of that money in the long run!

Unicorns, dragons, and compensation culture – none exists

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 10 June 2014:

While more and more evidence comes to light showing there’s no such thing as compensation culture, policymakers continue to pass pointless laws.

If you’re involved in the personal injury compensation industry, you can’t swing a cat without hitting some pundit or talking head nattering on about how compensation culture is ruining this country. Personal injury lawyers supposedly convince people to make spurious accident claims in order to line their pockets with legal fees, the conventional wisdom goes, and the poor defenceless insurance companies that are named as defendants in these cases are sucked dry, forcing them to raise their rates to stay afloat. It’s a clever story, even if it’s bollocks, and policymakers fall over one another to combat the scourge of compensation culture.

This week the newest attack against those dastardly ambulance chasing lawyers consists of new laws that will ban law firms from enticing would-be claimants with up-front incentives for bringing a claim with them. Now, some fly-by-night law firms certainly do like to sweeten the deal by providing cash up front, vouchers, or even expensive electronics as a thinly-veiled ‘thank you’ to some claimants for bringing a claim but the practise isn’t that widespread by a long shot – but the Justice Secretary insists that it’s contributing to higher fraud instances, God bless his empty little head.

Meanwhile – and hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen – research says that fraud is hardly a problem at all in the legal field. In fact the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers says that the contribution when it comes to scammers and fraudsters is something like seven per cent when it comes to whiplash claims. In other words there’s not much in the way of spurious claims being brought; instead it’s just the nation’s insurance companies looking for excuses to raise our rates. Using personal injury lawyers as scapegoats is nothing new; the only startling thing is that so many people fall for it even in this current day and age. Some people are just altogether too credulous if you ask me.