A solicitor has spoken out about the insurance industry’s growing practice of ‘third party capture’. This is the process whereby an insurance company approaches a person it knows has been involved in an accident and who may make a claim against it for personal injury. It is most common following road traffic accidents. If an insurance company feels that its own driver was at fault, they will often attempt to contact the ‘innocent’ driver direct, before they have the opportunity of taking independent legal advice.
The insurer often offers a sum of money to settle the claim immediately, sometimes on the day of the accident. Alternatively, they may offer to arrange a medical report with a doctor approved by the insurance company.
If the injured person refuses an offer of settlement, the insurance company will often offer to appoint a solicitor from its own panel to represent the injured person in the claim against it.
Richard Lowes, a partner at BLB Solicitors in Bath, says that his firm has come across several cases where local accident victims have been left significantly under compensated as a result of this process.
He says “I recently took a call from a lady who had agreed to accept an offer of £1,000 from a leading motor insurer. They had called her within hours of the accident and she was still feeling very shaken up. She thought it was a good offer and accepted. However, by the following day she had developed back pain as a result of which she was signed off work for a total of two months. Her lost earnings alone were more than the sum she had accepted.
Where people are offered the option of legal advice, they are invariably referred to a solicitor on the insurance company’s own panel. You really have to question the true independence of a solicitor who relies for their work on the insurance company of the paying party. In one case where we were approached by a client to take over conduct of the claim from one of these panel solicitors, the client was being advised to accept an offer of £2,500. We settled it for £43,000.”
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers is calling for the whole process of third party capture to be regulated in order to avoid the clear conflict of interest between the insurance company and the injured person.
In the meantime Richard Lowes recommends that if you are involved in an accident then take immediate advice from a specialist solicitor who is a member of the Law Society’s Personal Injury Accreditation Scheme. Contact BLB Solicitors on 01225 462871.