Personal injury is manna from heaven for journalists and politicians. Whether it’s cash for crash, holiday sickness claims, dangerous conker fights or employees falling on slippery floors, the media is fond of talking up the so-called compensation culture and finds a ready audience in politicians keen to make a name for themselves.
As a result policymakers have turned their attention to the issue. In 2015, then Chancellor George Osborne announced the government’s intention to crack down on personal injury, and especially whiplash, which he said was adding £50 to the price of an average motor insurance policy.
Mr Osborne cited the growth of a compensation culture, and an increase in frivolous and fraudulent claims.
As a result, the personal injury sector has been under a great deal of pressure, and has been accused of taking advantage of the law and failing to safeguard and promote the interests of vulnerable clients.
In order to get to the truth about these perceptions, in Oct 2016, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulator for the sector, commissioned an independent survey by ICF Consulting Services concerning the PI market. The survey showed that most respondents thought the market is working well.
Also in 2016, the SRA published a Warning Notice to make their expectations around behaviours clear to the profession.
However, the SRA continues to receive reports from the public and others raising serious concerns in PI cases. The current PI Thematic Review is one of the ways in which the SRA are improving their understanding of personal injury and working to improve the experience for clients.
The SRA visited 40 firms, looking at 14 areas where concerns have been raised about the PI market. Firms generally evidenced that they had systems and processes in place to ensure a proper standard of service is provided to clients. In eight of the areas explored, the SRA found little cause for concern.
In six other areas, although the SRA did not find widespread issues, the regulator did highlight concern in the practices of a small number of firms. These included introducers, training, costs explanation, acting on instructions, fraudulent & frivolous claims and paying damages.
Some firms, including Minster Law, have taken proactive steps to deal with the legislative changes in order to make sure they remain compliant and provide an excellent standard of PI service to clients.
Our lawyers are trained to go to huge lengths to assist clients with their claim, even though financial incentives have fallen in the fixed costs world where we largely operate.
As is so often the case, the truth is more prosaic than media hype. The Thematic Review generally showed law firms had the necessary systems and processes in place to deliver a high standard of service. Tabloid entertainment is all very well, but at Minster, all we care about is getting the best possible outcome for our clients.