A number of insurers have started dealing directly with injured people and making offers to settle their injury claim. Victims should exercise caution.
The insurance company has an interest in settling the claim as quickly as possible for the lowest amount possible. You as the injured person have an interest in getting the appropriate amount for your injury – you want the right answer. Any damages you get should firstly compensate you for your injury and any losses you may have suffered, but should also provide you with sufficient funds to pay for future care if required. The insurer and the injured person have a ‘conflict of interest’ as they both want different things. This means that they will not give you as the injured person impartial advice as to what your injury is worth. These are the same insurers who repeatedly and publicly say that they are happy to pay genuine claims.
Insurers do not see conflict of interest as a problem when making direct approaches to an injured person, as they see it as an opportunity to save money. Lawyers, on the other hand, are not allowed to take on a case if there is a conflict of interest. They must be able to get the right answer for the client. There should be nothing in it for them. A lawyer will advise you as to whether an offer of compensation is good enough, or whether it should be higher – whether you should hold out for more from the insurer.
One lawyer talked publicly recently about a case he had dealt with where the client had been offered £30,000 direct from the insurer. This was a huge amount of money to the client and they seriously thought about settling. However, just in case, they decided to ask a lawyer for advice. That lawyer went on to secure a settlement of £1.3m in court. The client was unaware of the value of the injury, and couldn’t predict the costs of future care. Without a lawyer the under-settlement would have been immense.
Think about it with respect to cars – many of you will have had your car stolen in the past, and the payment from the insurer is typically less than the vehicle was worth.
Injured people are not experts on personal injury. They do not know, without the advice of lawyers, whether a settlement is appropriate or not. Injured people may be earning less than the average wage, or are unable to earn money for a period of time because of their injury. Four figure offers of settlement can be tempting.
All my experience has shown that you have to level the playing field in any relationship between big business and the individual, in order to make sure that the process is fair and not driven solely by profit. Injured people need independence of advice and expertise to get a fair settlement.
Beware these approaches. Use a lawyer.