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 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!

Sometimes it’s the personal injury lawyers who are to blame

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 3 March 2015:

It’s not something that’s easy to face or even to talk about, but sometimes the injured suffer because their personal injury lawyers are to blame for suffering.

In fact, there’s a very noteworthy example of this that just hit the news this week in the form of how 42 year old Shaunna Baynes ended up in a world of pain and suffering after celebrating her 40th birthday. Shaunna had a fantastic time visiting Graceland in the United States – the woman is a self-avowed Elvis fanatic – only to suffer damage to her hip and a broken nose on the flight back when she stumbled over a British Airways worker.

After getting home, the injured woman contacted a personal injury solicitor to seek legal advice in making an accident claim against British Airways. However, the solicitor firm neglected to make a personal injury compensation claim in time, resulting in Shaunna being given £2,000 from the lawyers instead as a consolation prize.

Now, I will say that the solicitor firm at least did the right thing in owning up to its mistake and paying the poor injured woman out of their own pocket. However, I also have to say this: what sort of incompetent pillocks manage to cock up so badly like this?

Do you know what happened? The solicitor in question thought he had three years to make a claim when the limit is actually two. For someone who claims to have had years of experience dealing with personal injuries, an oversight of this level is the equivalent of forgetting that you need to have your licence and insurance before getting behind the wheel to drive. It’s infuriating and absolutely unbelievable that people like this have been operating in this world.

Who knows what other ways these solicitors have cocked up other cases? They could be ruining lives and bollixing up court cases left and right. It’s rather an embarrassment to the entire personal injury community, if you ask me; I know I would be absolutely bloody mortified if this happened to a law firm I was involved with. Lord, I would never be able to show my face in public again

Why do personal injury claims take so long sometimes?

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 24 Feb 2015:

If there’s one thing that always makes people wonder, it’s how sometimes personal injury claims can take literally decades to resolve themselves.

In fact, if you were to look at the news this week you’d surely leave scratching your head, as one of the most prominent stories in the press was how 24 year old Annie Woodland, a woman who had suffered life-changing injuries in a near-drowning when she was 10 years old, had to wait nearly a decade and a half to receive her personal injury compensation award. That’s an incredible delay by any stretch of the imagination; sure, the wheels of justice might grind slowly, but 14 years? That seems a bit much if you ask me.

Or if you ask anyone, really. Even personal injury solicitors will wince and say that such a long turnaround is rather unpleasantly rare. So what caused the long delay? Well, the secret is, of course, in determining who was going to pay Woodland’s £3 million compensation award. The woman had been on a school trip to Basildon’s Gloucester Park Pool at the time of the injury, but she and the rest of the pupils were under the supervision of both a contracted swim instructor and a lifeguard for the facility; there was a conflict between whether Essex Council should be paying for her injuries or if the contractor should be.

Essex Council fought long and hard against paying the bill, stating that if they acquiesced it would mean that it could find itself liable for any number of accidents and injuries that occur on school trips even when pupils were being supervised by non-council employees and staff. The council went on to say that it would likely have to encourage fewer trips to be taken by schoolchildren as a result, something it called a ‘chilling’ effect that would negatively impact the education of children within the local authority’s reach. Meanwhile I think it just came down to not wanting to shell out that kind of cash, despite all the pain and suffering that Woodland has gone through since she nearly drowned.

So on the one hand I can kind of understand Essex Council’s position – but on the other hand, making this injured woman wait 14 years on a procedural issue? Kind of makes my stomach turn.

Man injured in motorbike accident wins £10m accident claim

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

Want a cool £10 million? No problem – just get yourself nearly crippled in a motorcycle accident and let your personal injury solicitors do the rest.

I’m just taking the piss, of course. No one “just” gets themselves involved in a serious road traffic accident in a bid to earn millions of pounds in personal injury compensation. In fact it’s likely to be one of the most excruciating and life-changing experiences of your life – much as it was for Macel Beasley, the 31 year old man who was so severely injured in a motorbike crash a few years ago his heart stopped a terrifying 8 times on the way to hospital via air ambulance. Not only that, but he was in a coma for two long weeks until he finally regained consciousness.

Meanwhile, once Beasley woke back up, it was readily apparent that the physical head trauma he had sustained in the accident had left him with the kind of severe brain damage that you simply don’t walk away from unscathed. I mean that literally, too – the poor man needs a wheelchair to get about for much of the time, and he’s in need of constant care. He’s also now the recipient of a terrible impairment to his speech – as if the rest of his long-lasting injuries weren’t enough to have to deal with.

Thankfully for Beasley, the other person involved in the accident that left him with these injuries – the driver of the VW Golf that cut him off and collided with him – was determined to be fully liable for the accident. That means he gets every penny of the £4.27 million lump sum payment in the terms of his settlement – and the yearly £175,000 payments for the rest of his life in order to help pay for his needs. All in all it’s around £10 million in value, his compensation award. Beasley plans to purchase a house that can accommodate his specialised accessibility needs and to ensure he has the round the clock care that he also needs in order to live as comfortably as possible.

How comfortable that will be is anyone’s guess, of course. I know that no amount of cash would ever replace the use of my legs or soothe the constant pain of knowing that I suffered severe brain damage. It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it?

Scottish councils pay big thanks to personal injury claims

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 30 Dec 2014:

Over the last five years, Scottish councils have been paying through the nose when it comes to personal injury claims according to brand new data.

Personal injury lawyers in Scotland have been working overtime over the last half a decade, winning something like £15.5 million in compensation awards for claimants. The unbelievably high figure covers a range of bizarre injuries – some claims were for as little as just £1.50 – making me wonder who in the world would even bother for just over a quid’s worth of damages – to a massive £73,000.

According to the data, the lion’s share of the personal injury compensation claims were mostly due to injuries and damage due to potholes or water-related damages. However, there were a number of other issues leading to claims such as wrongful arrests and even violent council employees.

Believe it or not, this massive payout is actually being greeted as a relief by Scottish councils. Why, you may ask? Well it’s not because Scottish councilors are completely barmy – it’s that the figure is actually an improvement However, the figures show an overall decrease in council payouts. How big a decrease? About £3 million, if you can believe it, when compared to the kinds of payouts being made by Scottish local authorities from 2010.

So this is a pretty turn of events indeed if you ask me. For what it’s worth, it’s nice to know that Scottish authorities are gladdened to know that the amount of compensation they’re paying out is going down by a rather reasonable chunk. At the same time, £15.5 million is a shedload of cash – and let’s be honest here, the money that these councils pay out is sourced from taxpayer funds. Sure, technically it’s the insurance companies for the councils that pay out on all these claims, but where do you think the money comes from to pay the incredibly high premiums for all the policies for these councils? We’re not talking pennies here after all. Think about it: your own home insurance rates are probably higher than you’d like to pay, and that’s just one personal residence. Imagine what it costs to insure a school or some other building that a local authority is responsible for!

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?

 

Millions in compensation in medical negligence case

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 16 Dec 2014:

I can’t think of anything more potentially heartbreaking than a medical negligence claim – especially when it comes to claims made on behalf of children.

If there’s one region of personal injury compensation law that is most heart-wrenching it’s got to be instances of children being hurt or injured for life because of a botched medical procedure in their youth or during birth. Such a story tugs on the heartstrings of even the most jaded, grizzled personal injury solicitor – and these stories usually ends with massive personal injury compensation claims that are meant to make the injured child’s life somewhat more bearable, but it’s cold comfort in many cases.

In fact, there was a particular instance this week where  teenager from Northern Ireland ended up with a massive £8 million compensation award after he was improperly cared for as a little baby. The boy, who had been in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital shortly after his birth to treat an infection ended up with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy because medical staff hadn’t cared for him properly. To make matters worse, the poor lad also has learing difficulties and epilepsy as a result.

Can you imagine having your life completely changed by poor medical care so badly that the courts see fit to award you £8 million? I don’t know if I could. What I can say is that while I’m absolutely heartbroken at the poor lad having to go through years of physical issues and learning disabilities, at least he should be set for life with such a massive compensation award. This should allow the teenager’s future home to be constructed with an eye towards the many accommodations he will need, not to mention the round the clock care that his injuries and ailments require.

Still, it’s cold comfort. I’m sure that the lad and his family would give up all that cash in a moment if it meant returning him to full health. That’s never going to happen of course – and it’s part of the tragedy that surrounds medical negligence cases – but at least he can be kept in relative comfort and with the security of knowing that there’s money for his needs for the rest of his life.

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.

Will computer engineers replace personal injury solicitors?

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 25 Nov 2014:

New developments in technology could see computer engineers replacing personal injury solicitors eventually, if the newest breakthrough gains any traction.

I know it sounds like I’m saying the sky is falling when I say that new tech could replace a personal injury lawyer as the best way to make sure injured claimants get their personal injury compensation awards, but just because it sounds implausible and far-fetched doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility. I mean nobody thought the cotton gin would replace plantation workers when it came to picking cotton, but that happened too didn’t it?

Meanwhile in the current day and age, there’s a new push towards using technology to determine the extent of a claimant’s injuries instead of relying on lawyers and court cases. One new firm in Alberta, Canada called Vivametrica is spearheading the movement; it takes data gathered from a wearable fitness tracker called a Fitbit to see how much a claimant’s physical mobility has been impacted by an alleged accident, collecting data on the injured party and then comparing it to a database of records gleaned from healthy people of a similar height, weight, age and gender. If the two records are vastly different, the data may be used in court to prove that someone indeed was injured enough to deserve some compensation.

On the surface it sounds like a brilliant idea, doesn’t it? You could easily weed out anyone who was simply trying to get some quick cash from an insurer by pretending to have suffered injury, since their own bodies would betray them and expose the scam. Meanwhile, the gathering of this fitness data doesn’t happen over a few days or even a week – it could take months to build up enough data points to make a determination, and all through that time a legitimately injured claimant has been suffering – maybe unnecessarily.

Look, I’m all for better living through technology but this seems like we’re just overly complicating things in an industry that can be Byzantine in its intricacies already. Why add even more mountains of red tape to what could be piles higher than the Himalayas if we have to? Is this just a stunt on the part of insurers to once again weasel out of paying their fair share when it comes to injured claimants or what?

Car accident claims figures recede, pleasing insurers vastly

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 18 Nov 2014:

Insurers in the UK are likely to be chuffed to hear that the number of car accident claims have gone down by a significant amount this year.

So yes, it looks like 2013’s Legal Aid bill that went into effect in April of that year seems to have paid off for insurance companies. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries reported this week that personal injury claims costs have gone down in the first time in ten years. The knock-on effect should be to drop insurance rates for the rest of us, but that’s neither here nor there; the startling news here is that April 2013’s LASPO bill actually worked as intended.

Of course it wasn’t just insurers that benefited from the Legal Aid bill. Personal injury solicitors that had been growing weary of defending their profession from accusations of ambulance chasing behaviour were glad to see LASPO held language banning referral fees, especially since this meant that the ban would likely make the bottom drop out of the claims management company market. Those CMCs had become notorious for giving personal injury lawyers a bad name, as the companies essentially took any and every case they could in the hopes that if they brought enough accident claims some of them would pan out enough to keep their pockets lined with insurer revenue.

Well, it turns out that Legal Aid did wreck the CMC market, as the IFoA says that there are 35 per cent fewer of the bloodsucking companies out there today than there were before April of 2013. Sure, they might not be wiped out completely but it’s obvious that they’re not nearly the thorn in the side of the personal injury compensation claims industry as they once were, and that makes me – and countless legitimate injury lawyers – practically giddy with happiness.

So there you have it – injury lawyers are happy, insurers are happy; it sounds like something that you would think would be bloody impossible but apparently it’s true. How long this will last is of course anyone’s guess, but for now I would just counsel you to enjoy it – and maybe look forward to some cheaper car insurance rates in the future. That of course requires insurers to stay true to their word, so don’t hold your breath on that one, mates.

Nobody likes having to deal with multiple injury claims

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 11 Nov 2014:

Whether it’s just a handful of personal injury claims or an unending avalanche of them, even having to deal with just one can seriously ruin your day.

Nothing’s worse than being involved in a personal injury compensation claim, especially for private trusts and local authorities. The bigger the pockets on an organsiation – and the more responsibility they have – the more they seem to get hit by claims and those ubiquitous personal injury solicitor fees. It’s happening right now with Essex County Council, as the local authority is facing down some 15 individual claims for injuries related to slips and trips in Brentwood High Street.

The country council is already out of some £7 million in costs for its controversial decision to ‘fix’ the street, as doing so managed to take the piss out of many local residents back in 2009 when the refurbishment initially took place. Well, now it’s even worse with the double handful of claims the council now has to deal with.

Meanwhile it could always be worse. How worse you ask? Well let me tell you: imagine that you were in charge of Jimmy Savile’s estate and you had some 160 claimants beating down your door because of the man’s supposed proclivities. Yes, that’s right, there are 160 possible claimants waiting to get a piece of the old man now that he’s dead and gone – and after spending 84 years on the planet it seems old Jim sure did ‘fix’ quite a few people – and not in a good way!

It’s gotten so bad that a High Court judge had to order a compensation fund st up for the man’s supposed victims. This has of course made the managers of Savile’s estate practically apoplectic, especially since claimants are emerging from the shadows like circus clowns from a Volkswagen Beetle. The worst thing is Savile is safely out of reach, considering how he’s pushing daisies. Would he be contrite? Embarrassed? Quivering with righteous indignation at all the allegations? We can only wonder, I suppose. I’d like to think that Savile would tell all his detractors to jog on, proclaiming his saintly innocence until the very last even in the face of overwhelming evidence, but that’s just me.