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.

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!

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?

Injury lawyers work hard for clients regardless of payout

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 4 Nov 2014:

Personal injury lawyers work hard for their clients regardless of the size of the personal injury compensation award at stake; it’s not the money that matters.

Critics and detractors of so-called ambulance chasing injury lawyers love to point out that these people are in it for the money, looking for the most lucrative clients to represent so they can line their pockets with court costs and lawyer fees. Meanwhile that couldn’t be farther than the truth.

For what it’s worth, personal injury solicitors are more about providing access to justice for injured people than they are trying to strike it rich. I mean let’s look at the news this week if you don’t believe me. Did you know that one factory worker just prevailed on his work accident claim after he was brained by a falling pipe – and that he “only” ended up with a £4,000 award. Not exactly big money going into the pockets of his lawyer there, let me tell you. The bloke missed something like seven weeks of work as his broken pate healed.

Still, that’s not to say that there aren’t massive payouts as well. Another case that grabbed headlines this week recounted how a massive £4 million personal injury claim case was resolved for a gravely injured man. The bloke in question ended up in a serious road traffic accident that left him with serious brain injuries that saw him having to re-learn how to speak and that drastically altered his personality to the point where the normally even-tempered man became, well for lack of a better term, a right bastrard.

Now if you ask me if anyone deserves a massive compensation payout in the wake of such a debilitating and life-changing accident it’s that man. It’s true that £4 million is quite literally a shedload of cash, but the man needs round the clock managed care, and unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that costs a serious amount of money – especially considering the man is only 26 and he’s got a very long life ahead of him.

And yes, the man’s legal team does of course end up being entitled to a large sum of legal fees from the settlement. But let’s be honest here – the lawsuit took eight bloody years to resolve. That’s a long time, and that’s a lot of court costs to recover!

Personal injury claims fraud plagues insurance providers

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

If there’s one thing that insurance providers hate to do, it’s to give away money – and when it’s because of a fraudulent personal injury claim it’s even worse.

Insurance companies are of course in the business of underwriting risk, and that’s what we pay them for; in the event of an accident beyond our control we’re indemnified for the costs that are incurred, thanks to the fact that we pay these bloodsuckers annually for such a privilege. That’s how the system is supposed to work, but insurers say that there’s so much claims fraud activity that it’s becoming a serious headache – and just when they get a handle on one avenue of fraud another one pops up!

A perfect example of this is how there has been legislative action taken to make it extremely difficult to perpetrate whiplash claims fraud, thanks to the new limits put on personal injury lawyers and claimants alike. However, scammers seem to be staying one step ahead of the game and have switched to other types of personal injury compensation claims such as industrial deafness in order to continue bilking money from these insurers.

On the one hand this makes me more than a little giddy, considering how I like to see and hear about these massive insurance companies taken down a peg by some industrious and clever criminals. On the same time these fraudsters make everything worse for the rest of us, as every pound they receive ends up having to be accounted for – and it’s through the premiums that get charged to you, me and every other honest consumer. This of course erases any speck of goodwill I might have towards these crafty bastards.

Of course it’s not just organised criminals that contribute to the fraud problem. Sometimes it’s as simple as you or I forgetting to give a new insurer full and complete information when it comes to applying for a new policy – or if you’re particularly criminally-minded it’s a deliberate omission of important information in an attempt to get cheaper cover. This isn’t just unsubstantiated grumbling on the part of insurers, either – the Association of British Insurers says that its records indicate something like 180,000 fraudulent application were submitted by prospective customers throughout 2013.

So yes, think about that the next time you consider leaving off how you’ve had a few claims on your next insurance application. Don’t be part of the problem; even if you’re not caught, you’re still making things worse for the rest of us!

Medical negligence has injury solicitors working overtime

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

Personal injury lawyers specialising in medical negligence have been kept incredibly busy this year according to recently released research findings.

You know as well as I do that there’s nothing particularly amusing or droll about medical negligence claims, most importantly because they can be so deadly serious. You can end up with life-changing, debilitating injuries – or worse yet, your family could end up mourning your untimely death. It’s what happened to Andrew Raybould’s mum and dad; their story broke this week about how their 30 year old son was turned away from hospital three times because medical staff couldn’t diagnose his pancreatitis in time. Instead the poor man died in excruciating pain – and his devastated parents have made a righteously wrathful medical negligence claim.

But this is just one incredibly tragic example of the kinds of personal injury claims that have arisen recently because of medical negligence. It turns out that the 2013-14 year has been a bad one for the NHS, as the number of complaints against it have gone up by 7 per cent when compared to the 2012-13 year – or that’s what the Health & Social Care Information Centre says. The organisation released details revealing that there have been an eye-watering 174,000 complaints made. Not each and every one of them are as tragic and fatal as in the case of Andrew Raybould of course but it’s certainly keeping the nation’s personal injury solicitors busy in making claims.

The whole thing makes me incredibly uncomfortable though. I mean we’re talking about medical professionals that should be qualified to take care of us, not put us in more danger or even end up having us lose our lives due to their incompetence! What is it about the NHS that seems to attract so many doctors and other medical staff that don’t seem to know what they’re doing?

Of course it might not be the fault of the nation’s doctors and nurses. NHS hospitals are almost comically understaffed, and junior doctors oftentimes work shifts that are so long that they might go as long as 18 hours at a time without rest. It’s a situation that just breeds mistakes, and it’s positively criminal. What can you do besides hope and pray for the best?

 

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!

 

Don’t you ever blame lawyers on injury claims fraud again

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 12 Aug 2014:

The jury is no longer out: personal injury lawyers have no role in fraud when it comes to personal injury claims – that honour goes to idiotic claimants.

If there’s one row that’s longer-lasting than who’s responsible for all the personal injury compensation fraud in the UK, you’re unlikely to find one. Maybe the whole ‘chicken or the egg’ question might have been raging for longer, but not with as much fervor as this one. On one side stand insurers who level their accusatory fingers at personal injury solicitors, whilst on the other side it’s the lawyers saying, ‘don’t look at us, mate; it’s the bloody claimants.’ Well guess what? It’s definitely the bloody claimants. What’s even better – the majority of them are so stupid that they get caught left and right.

Don’t believe me? Fine, I’ll let the news stories this week speak for themselves when it comes to the pillocks we’ve got in the UK trying to commit fraud. First there’s the story of how a man and a woman old enough to know better decided to try to get one over on a car hire firm, only to be found out in one of the most ludicrous of ways.

It turns out Steven Phillips, 62, and his 57 year old step-sister Terrina Downes had concocted a ridiculous plan to bilk a car hire firm for damages related to whiplash claims by staging an accident in a remote location. Of course, when Phillips hired the van he didn’t realise that the owner had a GPS device fitted to the vehicle so it could be tracked – and when Phillips reported the ‘accident’ happening at a certain place, the whole plot unraveled when the GPS indicated it had happened miles away. Needless to say there will be no compensation claim for these two.

Not stupid enough? Well what about this one: Kyle Denton ended up getting in a punch-up one night after having a few too many at his local and did some awful damage to his hand – enough to require some pins. The chavtastic chap went on to post about how he got his hand injured on Facebook and even posted a picture of it to go along with it, only to then go to his local council to look for some compensation because he ‘tripped on a pothole’. His council thought it was a bit suspicious, and they were right once they uncovered the idiot’s Facebook status. Guess who’s gotten himself into hot water as a result?

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!

It’s the Government & injury lawyers versus car insurers

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 29 July 2014:

You might think it would have never happened, but it has: personal injury lawyers have joined forces with the Government to protest car insurance providers.

I can’t think of any more strange bedfellows than the personal injury solicitor community and the Government, especially since the latter is always so concerned with so-called ‘ambulance chasing’ lawyers profiteering off the backs of the injured by coercing Brits into bringing personal injury claims. For years, it’s been the insurers and the Government facing off against lawyers, pointing accusatory fingers at the lowly solicitor for driving up premium prices because there are so many spurious claims being made – especially whiplash claims.

However, the Government left the insurance community in a heartbeat after insurers have come up with a truly hare-brained scheme to curtail claims fraud. The largest car insurance provider in the UK, Aviva, recently proposed changing the industry-wide standard for whiplash claims: instead of offering personal injury compensation awards in cash, Aviva said that the whiplash fraud problem could be eradicated overnight by simply refusing to supply any cash to claimants but instead simply pay for their rehabilitation.

On the face of it the idea might seem like a sound one but think about it: what happens to anyone and everyone who have legitimate claims? Whiplash is incredibly painful, especially if you’ve got a bad case, and for the most part rehabilitation doesn’t really speed recovery. If you’re suffering from whiplash you could be stuck not being able to do anything because of the pain – and that means you could miss work for more than a few days or even a month or so. If you eliminate cash compensation, what are these injured to do?

No, the better idea – and one that the Government is keen on implementing with the personal injury sector’s blessing no less – is to instead require anyone who wants to make a whiplash claim to see a medical professional for an evaluation. This has its own set of issues of course, especially considering how there are few actual quantifiable things a doctor can point to as evidence of whiplash, but it’s a far sight better than just shutting everyone down completely.