Monday, 4 April 2011

Cheers, suckers !

I saw an article yesterday reporting the delight of liability insurers at the news that the Ministry of Justice will now implement Lord Justice Jackson’s civil costs recommendations.

It’s understandable.  They must be creased up in laughter at the supposedly intelligent people responsible for this decision, who seem to have swallowed all the baloney dished up.

Nick Starling at the ABI is quoted as saying “these reforms are good news for genuine claimants, who too often struggle to get fair compensation under the current system”.

How touching. How caring.

The reason why genuine claimants too often struggle to get fair compensation is that liability insurers will stop at nothing to prevent them from getting it.

And when “ambulance chasing lawyers” step in to make sure that justice is done, the game plan is simple.  Fight it all the way, run up a massive bill of costs and then squeal to the world that the lawyers are getting rich and spoiling the game.

Here’s an example, from personal experience…

A teenage girl, a farmer’s daughter, was crushed by a bull whilst she was working at a neighbouring farm.  She was not badly physically hurt but she did suffer a significant psychological injury as a result of being pinned to the wall by the huge beast.

An old style claims handler from a familiar big name nursed it carefully for nearly three years to the point where the young lady was on the verge of signing the agreement that was pre-requisite to payment of her £1,500 in compensation.

Father insisted that she should consult solicitors before signing. Of course we had to begin proceedings fairly quickly because the friendly claims handler had almost run it past the limitation date but we made a very early Part 36 offer to settle at £10,000. That was still a bargain for insurers but the client had reasons to do a deal at that level.

Her case went to trial on quantum. The award was nearly £35,000 with premium interest. Indemnity costs for most of the proceedings ran out at about the same level, also with premium interest.  So that was £70,000 for the claimant camp.

Our opponents were perhaps remunerated at the reduced rates that were the corollary of guaranteed work flows.  Even so, one can guess that the total bill would have been £90,000, if not more.  It could easily have been less than £15,000, by agreement - and no hard feelings.

This is the sort of case to which liability insurers will point and whinge about fat-cat ambulance-chasing lawyers.

Remember the bullies at school?  What did they do when the quiet but fearless kid stepped in to stop them from stealing off the others and knocking them about?  They ran off to the teacher howling.  

I remember teachers who were a lot more perceptive than the people at the Ministry who apparently cannot, or do not want to, see the obvious and grotesque truth.

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