Preserving the Essence of Personal Injury
This blog by Cheryl Abrahams was posted on the Independent’s blog page on the 31st May 2012.
Preserving the essence of personal injury
The personal injury claims industry has come under extreme criticism in recent years, with the Prime Minister calling for significant change to the way lower value claims are processed. In particular, whiplash claims have been blamed for the widespread increase in vehicle insurance premiums.
The term ‘no win no fee’ has developed fairly negative connotations both inside and outside the legal profession. However, it’s important to note that the ethics behind such legal services are all about improving access to justice. If ‘no win no fee’ was taken away, the only people able to access the justice system would be people who can afford to fund litigation, or those with the appropriate legal insurance cover.
At the less reputable end of the legal industry, the tactics used to entice consumers to bring a claim, and the prevalence of in-your-face TV advertising, have contributed to the growing criticism of ‘no win no fee’ practitioners. It has also become more difficult for consumers to identify qualified practitioners that are genuinely on their side in seeking fair compensation for an injustice – nothing more and nothing less.
Before deciding where to go for legal services, consumers need to understand the difference between claim management providers and personal injury law firms. The latter are firms of qualified and regulated solicitors with the expertise to conduct personal injury claims directly and see them through. Claims management companies on the other hand, advertise a personal injury claims service but refer the handling of it to a firm of solicitors for a fee – they act as ‘brokers’ and unlike solicitors, they are not required to operate under a code of conduct.
While it won’t necessarily impact on the number of claims, Government plans to ban referral fees will certainly make life more difficult for firms that specialise in providing a claims management service. Some may choose to merge with or buy law firms so that there will be no need for referral fees to be paid. However, there’s also a new player in the marketplace. Recent updates to the Legal Services Act in relation to alternative business structures (“ABS”) mean that well-known consumer brands can now enter the personal injury claims market, with The Co-op being one of the first to launch a service. However, the ability of such branded entities to offer the individuals fair and expert legal representation while managing their claim is questionable because it is anticipated that these entities will manage the claims like a factory production line.
Seeking advice from a recognised law firm with its own team of personal injury specialists will not only help ensure quality legal advice is provided but also that claims are dealt with by qualified solicitors who fully understand the complexities of the case and can assess whether the firm has the specific expertise to deal with it. For the consumer bringing the claim, this professional service offers peace of mind and is exactly what is needed at a time when they could be adjusting to living with a serious injury or even bereavement.
The legal landscape has become a lot more complex in recent years but by taking the time to source the right kind of legal support for their claim, consumers can save themselves a lot of extra anguish. Working with personal injury specialists means they are in the hands of professionals who have the skills to see their claim through and give them the justice they are seeking.