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'Don't get mugged by an insurer. Use a solicitor'

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Last week saw the launch of The Law Society’s Personal Injury Campaign, ‘Don’t Get Mugged by an Insurer. Use a Solicitor’, which is a new campaign to promote solicitors as the best source of legal advice in a personal injury claim.

The campaign, which will run for six weeks, and will see distinctive posters and advertisements posted in railways, on trains, PR coverage in local media, digital advertising on the M4 and Birmingham Expressway, and eventually, a YouTube video, deliberately takes a bold, humorous and memorable way to convey this very important message.

When an insurer ‘cuts out’ a solicitor and deals with an injured person directly, this is known as ‘third party capture’ and is a practice which we believe puts the accident victim at a distinct and unfair advantage and one which needs to be stamped out.

MASS, (Motor Accident Solicitors Society), a non-profit making society, whose aim is to bring justice to the victims of road accidents, sums it up as follows:

“Offers made to accident victims by insurers are frequently lower than the claim is worth, denying the victim the service and compensation they deserve.

Where an injury has occurred, insurers often make settlement offers without medical examinations to ascertain the full extent and degree of the injury and any short, medium or long term effects the injury may have. There is a huge conflict of interest because the insurer is acting on behalf of their policy holder (the defendant) and the accident victim at the same time. An insurers’ primary objective is to save money – there is little or no regard for the victims’ best interests.

Accident victims are not always offered the opportunity to seek independent legal advice. It is crucial that when a person under the age of 18 (a minor) is involved in an accident that independent legal advice is sought. The legal rights of ‘minors’ are a lot more detailed with potential long term implications especially if there is an injury. MASS is aware that some insurers attempt to ‘buy-off’ this element of a claim. If this happens and the minor has suffered an injury, it could affect them for the rest of their life and with no course for redress or compensation.

Accident victims are often given misleading information about how solicitors will handle their claim – for example, “Using a solicitor will cost you money and the claim will take a lot longer to settle”. This is not accurate.

Third Party Capture is taking advantage of accident victims, who are already vulnerable following an accident; many of whom are having to contend with the trauma and injuries of their accident.

Insurers are effectively acting as Judge, Jury and Paymaster. Accident victims can be harassed by constant telephone calls and pressure to settle their claim quickly. In some cases representatives are turning up on the victims doorstep unannounced and uninvited.”

So look out for a poster coming to a train station near you. And remember - don’t get mugged!

By personal injury solicitor and partner, Kate Sweeney