So, you’ve had an accident. You’ve been injured. You can’t work for a while, and you are self employed so you can’t earn any money. It’s a difficult time. The accident was at the hands of another and it wasn’t your fault – surely someone can help you?
Under the Government’s latest proposals, you would be expected to help yourself. At present you could talk to a lawyer who would advise you as to what you should expect, deal with the case on your behalf to secure compensation, and potentially get you a quick interim payment to ease your financial loss. Moving forward, and under the latest proposals, if your case is worth less than £5,000 (which the majority of cases are) you would be expected to build your case yourself (despite your ill health) and take it through the small claims court,where you may not be able to afford legal representation. Court fees alone can cost up to £500 at a time when you may be under financial pressure.
That may be enough to put you off already. But picture it now: you, on your own in court for the first time, up against an experienced insurance company representative. It’s David and Goliath. Few will be brave enough to face it.
As a consequence, many people who have suffered genuine injuries will simply be put off pursuing their cases. Genuine claims will just go away. Our last survey showed that 64 per cent of people would be unlikely to pursue their case without a solicitor. So, to be more precise, 68 per cent of real, justified claims would go away.
Insurers are commercial, savvy beasts. Everybody who has ever had to claim for a stolen car or a damaged vehicle will know how closely they guard their money and how tricky it can be to get the appropriate settlement. They have a duty to deliver profit for their shareholders. This creates a conflict when they start to deal directly with injured people to settle their claims. More people will be forced into dealing directly with insurers as an alternative to the small claims court. This is bound to lead to under settlement of damages – a Financial Services Authority report has shown that on average an injured person received a settlement 275 per cent higher using a lawyer compared to dealing directly with an insurance company.
The next claim could be yours. Don’t be swayed by this argument that we will all benefit from lower premiums. I don’t want to benefit if the injured person suffers unduly. I don’t want to injure someone in my vehicle for them not to be compensated and looked after. And will premiums truthfully come down? Legal costs for 75 per cent of personal injury claims were slashed by more than a third two years ago. And premiums have not fallen yet.