Injury claims; beware the glossy, slick TV advert
In April last year the Government banned the sale and purchase of personal injury claims amidst concern that such practice was fuelling an increase in spurious claims. Whether that concern was true is questionable. Certain media outlets would have you believe all claimants are dishonest fraudsters, out to cheat the system. That plainly is not right. The Government has also allowed companies to buy and merge with solicitors, such as insurers and “claims companies”, and to set up new businesses called “Alternative Business Structures”. This has seen some claims companies literally buying law firms, and trading under their name.
The ban on paying “referral fees” has led to a significant increase in TV, radio and other advertising for personal injury claims from these new ABS entities. The quality of these ads has at times left a little to be desired. Some people have also expressed concern that the quality of the advice and the terms offered by some of these new companies falls below what one might expect from a conventional solicitor.
There have been incidents of very high charges for clients and incidents of low settlements being negotiated. Often cases are handled by junior members of staff in large call centre type facilities. These new companies are often not local, so there can be no face to face meetings between client and solicitor. If the case is disputed or in other ways becomes complicated that face to face meeting can be crucial in ensuring a proper understanding between solicitor and client.
The best way to ensure that you have access to the right, local expert who will focus on you the client, not just on the bottom line, is to research the law firm first. Perhaps look at trade bodies such as the Law Society, MASS (Motor Accident Solicitors’ Society) or APIL (Association or Personal Injury Lawyers) and seek a recommendation from their website. Look at a firm’s website and see who might specialise in your type of case. Are they a large firm with dozens of solicitors practicing the same type of law, where you might feel the service would be impersonal?
Choosing your solicitor is no different to choosing your supermarket, your mechanic or your decorator. You need to feel that your business is wanted and appreciated, and you need to feel cared for and treated as an individual.
Do your homework and you should not go too far wrong.
Call us today for detailed and friendly advice on personal injury law.George Ide