Car insurance claims: expensive but needed for the injured

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 8 July 2014:

Personal injury solicitors may make a killing on legal fees when it comes to making successful car accident claims, but the payouts are huge for a reason.

Everyone grouses and whinges about how many road traffic accident claims end up costing insurers millions of pounds thanks to the high value of personal injury compensation awards. It’s true; damages awards for many car crashes are exorbitantly high, but there’s a very important reason why the legal bill is so high: serious crashes can completely destroy a victim’s life.

Don’t believe me? Let me draw your attention to two major news stories that broke this week involving multi-million pound compensation payouts for crash victims. In both cases they involved young men that had been riding as a passenger in a vehicle, only to have their lives changed in one irrevocable instant. For one of these victims, the use of his legs is gone, permanently; for another, massive head trauma will prevent him from leading a productive life. Either injury is debilitating and heart-breaking, and the millions they’ve both won in the courts recently isn’t going to go to fund extravagant lifestyles – instead it’s going to provide for the lifelong care of these two men.

This is the ultimate tragedy of bad car accidents, as they can wreck lives as easily as they can result in a car chassis mangled beyond recognition. Are you really going to begrudge someone who, through no fault of their own, is now permanently disabled for the remainder of their natural life simply because they had the ill luck to be traveling as a passenger in a vehicle that crashed? What about those drivers that were minding their own business and driving responsibly only to become embroiled in an accident caused by another driver, should they be penalised as well?

The answer is of course not, but sometimes I think we lose sight of the fact that there are real and true consequences to car crashes, and that there’s some very real collateral damage in the form of human injury. Insurers like to complain about how personal injury lawyers are sucking them dry with high compensation awards but what’s the alternative? Surely you’re not suggesting we leave these poor crippled victims with no help whatsoever?

Sometimes the personal injury compensation sector is bizarre

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 1 July 2014:

If there’s anything you can count on, it’s that sometimes things just go completely awry… and the personal injury compensation sector is no different.

This week the news reports were positively jammed with two stories that are the exact opposite – and are also the complete reverse of how things in a fair and just world would work out. They involve an innocent pensioner suffering grave injuries and having her personal injury claims denied and a drug dealer that is soon to be the recipient of a massive award after he was in a debilitating car accident.

Yes, you read that right: the poor, sweet old pensioner won’t even get her day in court, as her local authority has completely denied her ability to even entertain a personal injury claim, even as the drug dealer – who had something like 240g of cannabis in his jacket – is told he’s cleared to find a  personal injury solicitor and make a road traffic accident claim for what could easily be hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s stories like this that make people’s blood boil – mine included of course – at the sheer injustice in this world.

I really don’t know how things like this happen, except perhaps God has a decidedly wicked and ironic sense of humor. It was certainly no laughing matter when poor Trixie Offord tripped and fell over a pothole that Bucks County Council had classified as not significantly deep or wide enough to cause damage two weeks beforehand. Mrs Offord broke her wrist, damaged her face, and was obviously rattled by the whole experience only to be told that she essentially couldn’t have possibly hurt herself on that pothole because some stuffed shirt measured it as too shallow to cause harm. Bollocks to that, I say!

Meanwhile Sean Delaney, who had been riding in the passenger seat of his friend and fellow drug dealer’s Mercedes 500SL, ended up in a coma after a particularly nasty RTA. He broke bones all throughout his body, punctured a lung, and ended up with bleeding in the brain as well. The bloke has permanent, life-changing injuries as a result. Normally I’d just say, ‘well that’s what you get for dealing drugs you bloody berk’ and call it a day, but apparently the courts feel otherwise, clearing his way to make a compensation claim against the driver’s insurance company. What a mixed-up, unjust world!

Personal injury solicitors go to work to bring needed solace

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 24 June 2014:

Plenty of people will roll their eyes at the part personal injury solicitors play in society but sometimes they can come to the rescue of those that need it.

In fact, in the most high-profile case that was publicised this week – an incident that has peeled back and laid bare the terrible details surrounding a vicious child predator that worked at a high-profile London school for years without being caught – personal injury lawyers are playing a major role in providing at least some cold comfort to the families of the children this monster abused.

Southbank International School had employed William Vahey, a convicted paedophile from America, for several years. Whilst he worked at the elite private school he did terrible things to some 60 children, according to the grisly evidence, and while the sick, cowardly bastard went and took his own life after he was caught red-handed trying to repeat his performance at a Nicaraguan school, reparations for the pain and suffering he has left in his wake has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Southbank – and if you ask me, the school bears full responsibility for employing this horrid monster as a teacher for years.

The school is easily going to be slapped with enough personal injury claims to exceed £1 million in the end, experts say, based on the fact that the typical award for instances such as this range from £30,000 to as much as £30,000 per person. With a possible 60 personal injury compensation cases coming the school’s way, they’re in some very hot water – and for what it’s worth I hope they get wrung out for every last penny they have.

Will any amount of money ever restore the innocence and sanity of a child that’s been victimised in this way? Of course not. I’m sure each and every one of the parents of these poor schoolchildren would much rather have their child’s psyche intact instead of the cash. However, when it comes to putting the shattered life of an abused child back together, the ability to provide for the child’s needs in order to give them the time and attention needed to heal can, sadly, often be dependent on vast sums of money. Any family that ends up the recipient of a hefty damages award can at least rest easy that they will be able to afford whatever help their child needs to restore some semblance of sanity to their lives after being victimised so brutally and completely.

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.

Local authorities paying through the nose again

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 3 June 2014:

Here we go again: every time new reports come out about how local authorities have been paying out on accident claims the compensation culture pundits come out.

It happens without fail, and I’ve never seen it not occur – some news article gets published about how someone slipped and fell and ended up with thousands in personal injury compensation that comes out of taxpayer money, sending pundits into a self-righteous rage over how greedy injury solicitors are. This week it was stories about how much West Sussex County Council and Leicester City Council have been spending shedloads of cash, and it’s started yet another row about how compensation culture is ruining the UK. Well bollocks to that I say – let’s take a closer look at this weeks’s stories,e h?

So West Sussex County Council spent £23,000 to compensate an injured school staffer. Do you know why? He slipped in a wet puddle in a school corridor, falling and injuring their foot and ankle bad enough to do damage to the tendons. Sure, his compensation award ended up being more than a first-year teacher would earn from the council, but the poor bastard ends up crippling himself in a slippery corridor and  you’re going to quibble about a few thousand quid? What kind of heartless monster are you? Besides it’s not like the council is in the business of just signing off on every compensation claim that comes across their desk.

Now it’s true that in the long run £23,000 might not be that much to a local council, but over several years these compensation payments add up. Leicester City Council recently revealed that it’s paid out nearly £2 million over the past five years which is by any and all accounts a kingly sum. Of course several of those years were before the legal reforms limiting legal fees payable to law firms, so the figures are skewed. But none of those pundits ever mention that do they?

Hope you’re not in a hurry for personal injury compensation

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 27 May 2014:

If there’s one thing you can rely on in this world it’s that the amount of time between your accident claim and getting your compensation award can be forever.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the news this week: that horrific Clutha helicopter crash – which was six months ago nearly to the day – has of course resulted in an absolute shedload of horrifying personal tragedies, and many of those injured by the crash or the families of those who paid the ultimate price have of course sought legal advice from personal injury solicitors and have made accident claims as a result. However, not even one of the injured claimants or their surviving families have even seen a single penny of compensation yet.

This is, sadly, highly typical of the way the compensation landscape works, even though it makes it incredibly difficult for anyone left suffering in the face of life-changing injuries that precludes them from earning a living or even living their lives without round the clock care. Meanwhile the injury lawyers for the defendants argue and argue, trying to weasel out of being held responsible; it could easily be more than a full year before any of the most serious claims are actually paid out.

Then again, if you as a claimant can hold on long enough eventually you could finally get what’s coming to you. There was a fantastic example of this very concept recently as well, where US injury compensation court finally awarded a bloody fantastic $15 million to a young mother and her four year old daughter after an accident involving public transport. The 20 year old mother was riding a bus with her daughter when she was thrown violently from her seat as the driver went over a particularly nasty bump, and as she landed she did such extensive damage to her spine that not only did she need to undergo an operation to repair the damage to her spinal column but she was left in constant pain – for three long years!

So that $15 million doesn’t erase the pain and suffering the poor woman went through for three years. Nothing will. But, well let’s be honest – $15 million is a nice consolation prize.

Compensation culture: the global epidemic?

So you’ve heard it all before: personal injury lawyers get blamed for the UK’s compensation culture, but news this week revealed it’s not just limited to home.

Now, let’s not get so wild and out of control as to assume that injury claims fraud is on the decline in the UK. Whether it is or not, the stark truth is that investigations of seemingly dodgy claims have been on the increase – and there are some rather thick would-be scammers out there trying to pull a fast one over the insurance industry despite the fact that technology has advanced so far as to make it incredibly difficult. Case in point is how one Omagh native ended up getting caught by the CCTV cameras located in her local Asda as she first spilled some cooking oil on the floor of the supermarket and then proceeded to purposefully slip on it in order to fabricate a personal injury compensation claim. The foolish woman’s plan failed of course, and now she’s in some rather hot water.

Of course, this is just small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, especially since the woman would have been likely to get somewhere in the realm of only 7,500 pounds for her troubles. In America however – where everything is of course bigger and more garish – there was an accident claim recently made by a resident of New York City for a monumental sum. In fact, the 62 year old man, who claims his middle finger was completely  ‘bitten off’ by a dog whilst riding a New York City bus (the dog presumably riding the bus with the man?), wants the ungodly sum of $2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

No, that’s not a clerical error on my part there. That sum is so large that it’s not a trillion, a quintillion, or even a sextillion – it’s a great big bloody decillion. And no, I’m not going to make the obligatory exchange rate joke here either despite the American dollar’s constant deflation.

$2 decillion is, of course, more than a bit of change. It’s the largest ever compensation amount asked for in the history of mankind, regardless of exchange rate, and even if there was even the barest hint of truth in this obviously spurious personal injury claim there’s no way this madman who brought the claim would ever see that kind of cash.  So just keep in mind: we may be a bastion of ‘compensation culture,” but at least we’re not the United States!

Injury lawyers fight the good fight, get ambushed by fraud

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 13 May 2014:

Personal injury lawyers are constantly defending themselves from an unending barrage of accusations of fomenting a ‘compensation culture’ against claimants.

In fact, the newest bit of ammunition for the anti-personal injury solicitor crowd has emerged in the form of a massive fraud ring that would have cost a car insurance company some £54,000 if it wasn’t caught. Luckily one of the vehicles involved in the road traffic accident claim had been fitted with a telematics device, those little satnav-like black boxes that record your every move whilst behind the wheel, and data retrieved from the black box revealed that the collision was so low-speed that it was an absolute impossibility for the injuries to have occurred.

I’m glad the fraud was caught early before the insurer had to pay out on it of course, but the fact that there was a scam in place in the first place just gives those pointing fingers at injury lawyers for compensation culture in the UK more to shout about as they attempt to make it harder to bring an accident claim. This is of course complete and utter bollocks, and that’s not just me saying it either – in fact the National Accident Helpline just released new figures revealing how crucial it is that those injured legitimately in accidents get their day in court; reducing access to justice for these injured would be disastrous for them.

The survey found that when it came to those injured in a workplace accident or something similar, a full 80 per cent needed to make an accident claim in order to recover at least a portion of their lost earnings from missed work or other costs associated with their injuries. These aren’t people out to defraud the system by faking a whiplash claim but legitimately injured folks who need help making ends meet in the wake of their accident! Reducing access to justice in an attempt to curb fraud activity is like amputating an entire limb because you’re afraid you might break a finger. It’s utter rubbish and people should know better, if you ask me!

Personal injury lawyers don’t commit fraud; claimants do.

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 6 May 2014:

For anyone out there who’s pointed the finger at personal injury solicitors for being involved in fraud new evidence proves it’s claimants that may be to blame.

That’s right: it looks like that the favourite whipping-boy for the media when it comes to the so-called ‘compensation culture’ gripping the UK might be quite innocent after all! Personal injury lawyers have been quite absent from the news lately in regards to instances of fraud, but I can tell you who has been in the spotlight: claimants themselves.

First up there’s been some serious activity on the organised fraud front, especially when it comes to cajoling people who may have been involved in car accidents to bring road traffic accident claims. Text messaging spam on mobile phones in the UK has been on the rise – an 11 per cent increase over the last three months in fact – which is incredibly suspect considering that the Legal Aid act last year put an end to the practice and actually ran a majority of the claims management companies that specialised in unsolicited texts and phone calls right out of business. This means that the perpetrators of these actions are absolutely organised rings of scammers and fraudsters out to make a quick buck – and I’ll guarantee none of them are licenced to practise law!

Investigators aren’t taking this lying down, though. In fact, more time has been spent looking into spurious claims made by individuals and fraud detection figures have risen higher. In fact just this week another not-so-clever customer was caught red-handed mucking about quite easily in his garden with his wheelbarrow, even though he was claiming some £2 million for a supposedly debilitating injury that left him without the use of his right arm and precluded him from working for the rest of his life.

The unmitigated idiot, who was caught on surveillance video with his proverbial pants down, received a six month prison sentence for his actions. Needless to say his work accident claim was dropped. Well I hope he’s happy! I know I am, especially since he didn’t get away with it. Just a note to all those would-be scammers out there: if you’re claiming you’re disabled, don’t go out in public acting like you’re not, you great big bloody baboons.

Personal injury lawyers have motor insurers running scared

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

If there’s one particular sector that loathes and abhors personal injury solicitors more than any other, it’s the motor insurance industry.

In fact, there was not just one major news story this week but two that illustrated exactly how much car insurance companies fear the power of personal injury lawyers, especially those that specialise in car accident claims. First up is how major British insurer Aviva declared that – according to their own data, mind you – the number of fraudulent road traffic accident claims went up by nearly 20 per cent last year. Aviva didn’t come out and say that ‘ambulance chasing’ injury lawyers were to blame but instead said that there were organised fraudsters causing accidents to reap the benefits, though the inference was there that the personal injury claims sector had something to do with it.

Honestly I’m not surprised by this new report. Aviva is obviously in the business of making money, so it  behooves them to try to shift the blame for poor performance on to anyone but themselves. I do doubt the accuracy of the research though, and that’s just because I know that you can use statistics to back up more or less any bollocks you’d like to say in order to make it look official and valid. It is nice to see that a major insurer isn’t immediately blaming lawyers for the trouble; while fraud can be and of course is a problem to some extent, I’m going to need corroborating evidence before I simply believe what the insurance industry has to say.

Of course other insurers take a different approach. One of the more popular ways they’re trying to curb accident claims is by offering incentives to their policyholders to collect evidence on car crashes, this time by slashing their premium prices by 10 per cent for anyone who agrees to have a dashboard camera fitted to their vehicle.

Now this is both a good idea and a bad idea for a number of reasons. It’s helpful to have real video footage of crashes in order to more accurately discern who indeed is responsible for a particular incident, but it’s also a bit suspect in that it’s just one more instance of the burgeoning surveillance state. I mean the number of CCTV cameras throughout the UK is positively sickening as it is, and now the average Brit is being exhorted to add to the glut of privacy-violating surveillance just to get the price of their car cover down by a few quid?

Yes, I know what some of you will say: if you have nothing to hide, what are you worried about? Well to these particular wags I say it doesn’t matter if I have anything to hide or not – I have a reasonable expectation of privacy and I don’t relish being on bloody camera every time I go down to the corner shop for a Cornetto.

Time to put the ambulance chasing injury lawyer myth to rest

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 22 April 2014:

It’s finally happened: enough evidence has been unearthed that makes it nearly impossible to complain about ‘ambulance chasing’ personal injury solicitors.

In fact, there’s a pair of new reports that blow the whole argument that personal injury lawyers are drumming up spurious claims in order to turn a profit right out of the water. I have to say I’m filled with glee that I get to reveal them to all those smug bastards who think they’re going to eradicate the so-called ‘compensation culture’ by taking the piss out of injury lawyers, and to be honest it’s about bloody time that I get a chance to do this!

First up is a new report that the vast majority of those bringing work accident claims suffer loss of earnings either directly because of their incident or complications following it. 81 per cent of survey respondents revealed that they suffered enough lost earnings or other related costs that the only way to make themselves whole or at least ease their financial burden was to seek personal injury compensation from their employer or the responsible party. In other words, claimants actually need this money to pay their bills, not because some lawyer convinced them to bring a claim. So there!

Meanwhile the second report released this week – this one from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers – revealed that the number of claimants is nowhere near the number of accidents that occur at work. In fact, less than 2 out of every 10 actually receive compensation of some kind following an accident, even if the injuries they suffered were the fault of someone else.

So what’ stopping these people? Sadly there are plenty of personal injury law regulations that preclude many individuals that would otherwise have valid claims from bringing one. Interestingly enough these laws are supported by entities such as insurance companies, since fewer claims means less payouts – and that translates into higher profits. Who cares if people are sick or injured because of work conditions? We’ve got to think of the bottom line for our shareholders! Bloody tyrants.