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Despite recent high profile court decisions, there is no restriction to access to compensation for legitimate injuries*

September 21, 2017

The press and airwaves have been inundated with complaints of exorbitant insurance premiums, which according to the insurance industry are principally caused by fraudsters bringing false claims. This is supported by a press and public relations campaign including daily tabloid style reporting about claimants either making up, or exaggerating the effect of their injuries thus justifying the increased premiums. But does this argument stack up?

 

Be under no illusion but these news items are part of a sophisticated communications campaign run by the multi-billion euro insurance industry and its agents. At the coal face, it works like this. The insurers;

 

  • identify the fraudulent claimant,

  • stack up the evidence against them, e.g.; golfing with an injured back, jogging home carrying the crutches they used when going into the doctor’s office, running multiple claims for the same injuries, using different solicitors, variations of their names, and treating doctors

  • tell court reporters some of the salacious detail they can expect to hear in court (but don’t tell the other side of the same information so it is addressed in open court and admitted into evidence),

  • ensure the evidence is presented in circumstances of absolute privilege, where they can say anything about the claimant without the threat of defamation proceedings . In turn reporters present copy to their editors who are glad to publish with banner headlines the outrageous claims for compensation being made.

For the record, I have no sympathy whatsoever for claimants that make up an accident, or exaggerate the extent of injuries sustained or its impact on their lives. But the insurance industry’s is an effective strategy to discourage legitimate claimants because of the stain of being associated with these fraudsters.

 

For legitimate claimants the reality is this;

  1. 70% of claims are settled following the assessment of damages by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB)

  2. Of those cases remaining, for example where there is an issue regarding who is liable for the injury suffered, or the amount assessed by PIAB of the appropriate compensation, 30% are settled out of court following negotiations between the parties as to the value of the claim and responsibility for the accident

  3. The number of cases remaining include;

  • cases where the difference between the settlement expectations of the parties cannot be bridged by negotiation,

  • cases where the parties cannot agree who is responsible for the accident,

  • where claimants are victims of medical accidents,

  • certain infant and other claims that are expressly excluded from consideration by PIAB, and

  • our friends the fraudsters.

Despite their prominence in the media and elsewhere, stakeholders in the process including PIAB, insurance companies and lawyers know that fraudulent claims represent an infinitesimally tiny minority of those brought each year. However, if proved they provide evidence of abuse of the system generally. The ridicule and opprobrium heaped on these claimants discourages legitimate claims by parties who might otherwise be inclined to pursue their right to compensation.

 

As a postscript to the activities of fraudulent claimants, it will be interesting to see the outcome of the recent Competition Authority dawn-raids on the offices of various insurers and the investigation arising, to see whether they have been operating a criminal cartel in setting insurance premiums.

 

Let he who hasn’t sinned…….

 

 

 

 

*In contentious cases a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.

For further assistance regarding queries on the above topic Barry can be contacted at blyons@lyonssolicitors.ie and (01) 539 0060.

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