Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting a charming, alert and physically able septuagenarian and her husband involved in a road traffic accident earlier this year.
Mercifully, they were not badly hurt even though the driver of the other vehicle travelling at an estimated speed of 80 mph on a country road was far less fortunate. He will never know that liability for his actions is not disputed.
Ahead of our meeting I had the advantage of reading the mountain of letters and accompanying documents that have so far been generated by this lady’s insurers and their panel solicitors since their appearance within days of the event.
The bewildering swathes of paperwork revealed settlement with third party insurers, actual or imminent, of the more serious yet still modest claim of the husband as passenger. His wife had come to me in a quandary about the advice given to her.
She’d been packed off to see a ‘doctor’, appointed by the panel lawyers or their masters whose credentials were not evident, at a relatively local general practice which has a seemingly fresh and current website – but no mention of the practitioner concerned.
His or her report was not with the letter I saw advising a settlement figure similar to that ‘agreed’ for spouse. I wondered if this apparently generous, by comparison, figure had regard to the injuries recorded in the record of telephone instructions clearly naming her and containing clear references to her husband as the other claimant.
Because the injuries listed were his not hers.
Her great worry seemed to be the indication throughout the reams of ‘advice’ that she might be held partly responsible and the effect that might have where the police have said typically that they still haven’t completed their investigations.
No advice or help on that point. Instead, she has telephone calls from her insurers – yes, the insurers, not the solicitors – urging her to give instructions to settle without further delay.
Perhaps the explanation for this modus operandi is that the solicitors cannot afford to spend further time on it, having explained that they will receive £200 only for the first stage of the claim and £300 for the second.
Within the same tranche of documents the lawyers explain that the partner with overall responsibility for the case is charged at £275 an hour.
A selection of “case supervisors” (they’ve changed a number of times) have in common names that suggest they are all located in an overseas office to which conduct of the claim may be transferred at any time, subject to the right to ask for it to be transferred back.
Charge rate for them - £275 an hour.
Of course, the nitty gritty is dealt with by a “case handler (non-solicitor)”. Well, I say “a” – there appears to have been a succession of them too.
And their hourly rate? Er, £275.
So, how do we run a case at a combined hourly rate of £825 where the recoverable costs may be only £200?
The lengthy and consumer unfriendly terms and conditions reassure the reader (if still awake) that he or she doesn’t have to pay because their insurer will under the terms of the policy. Nice insurer.
There is of course the warning buried in those terms that whilst the policy-holder has the right to instruct other lawyers of choice, the panel lawyers are entitled to retain all papers until their charges have been paid. One infers that will be at the full indemnity rates that insurers are ‘liable’ to pay.
Funny – that figure of £825 rings a bell…oh, yes – that was the amount of the referral fee paid by the muppets who almost undersettled by 8 times the case I wrote about in Cleaning bills and Crash and capture.
There’s a clue, perhaps, for the supine and toothless regulators who appear to have neither appetite nor ability to detect and combat problems with the ‘spirit’ of circumvention of referral fee prohibitions.
None of this is enough, of course, for the interest-starved insurers. It’s made abundantly clear that the rehabilitation providers, whose input is undetectable, will be entitled whatever the ‘global’ settlement to their fees of nearly £500.
No need for an embarrassingly visible (if someone breaks ranks) rebate - see How it works – car insurance - now that we have the wonders of alternative business structures.
All this is paid for by Joe Public who is repeatedly conned – sorry, reassured – into believing that it’s a better service at lower cost.
My lady just wishes it was all over. The horrific crash that occurred a few months ago is nothing compared with the nightmare she’s found herself in at the hands of this trio – insurers, panel lawyers and ‘rehab providers’. Fun boy three.