It is probably fair to say that most people’s impression of the personal injury market is formed by brash adverts, nuisance calls, spam text messages, and by the idea of the ‘ambulance-chasing’ lawyer – forcing his card into the hands of an accident victim as they lie waiting for medical care. There is certainly a widespread view that the claims industry is an industry first and a way to claim legal redress second.
But if you are thinking of making a claim, or even if you are in the middle of one, you need to know that this doesn’t have to be your experience.
You are entitled to choose who you want dealing with your claim, but there are many situations in which you may be landed with a firm you didn’t pick. Following a road traffic accident, for example, your insurance company might put you in touch with a claims management company. They will have a panel of law firms which they use to process large volumes of claims. And to process large volumes of claims, they tend to implement systems which make processing those claims simpler. This has led to some companies in the personal injury sector being viewed as ‘claims factories’. When a company deals with claims on an industrial scale the process becomes exactly that – industrial – a factory production line. Inevitably, the personal touch is lost as each claim is seen as just another unit or number.
If you have been involved in an accident, you won’t see it exactly like everyone else’s – nor should your legal representative.
Perhaps you don’t mind the lack of personal service if your case is dealt with quickly. That’s perfectly understandable, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive; because it is advisable to await full recovery before settling an injury claim, the length of your claim will often be dictated by the duration of your injuries. Using a claims factory therefore doesn’t guarantee a quick outcome. In fact, it could lead to the opposite if your case becomes overlooked in the high volumes of other claims being processed. But there are also other dangers inherent in treating legal cases like an impersonal commodity.
The Risks of using a ‘Claims Factory’
Your claims handler will be overloaded with cases – I receive many CVs from people who have worked, or are working, in claims factories. Usually, the number of cases they have been allocated ranges from 300 to 500 claims. That’s 300 to 500 people, each with their own individual stories, needs and hopes for their recovery. But with such a workload, it’s not humanly possible for the file handler to fully appreciate each person’s case. It’s barely even possible to keep that number of cases moving through the claims process. There is no right answer to this situation either: focus on 50 cases – giving those clients the attention they deserve – and you neglect 450 other clients, each of whom deserves the attention just as much. Alternatively, you could give every case the same level of attention, which effectively results in all clients being neglected equally.
Naturally, with so much work required just to keep those cases moving through the claims process, things are bound to be missed. This could be anything from your handler failing to return your phone call, to overlooking aspects of your injury and thereby valuing your claim lower than it should be.
Staff often lack any legal qualification – Not all lawyers are created equal. In fact, the term ‘lawyer’ is so broad that it doesn’t signify any particular level of qualification. It can cover anyone working in law as well as anyone studying or teaching it. Equally, job titles such as ‘claims handler’, ‘paralegal’, ‘claims executive’, and ‘litigation executive’ do not denote any certain qualification status.
By contrast, the title of ‘solicitor’ can only be used legally by someone who is qualified as a solicitor. Similarly, the title ‘legal executive’ can only be used by someone who is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (FCILEx). They each indicate a definite standard.
With this in mind, it is worth considering how well-qualified your claims handler is. Undoubtedly, many people working in claims factories have extensive experience and legal training but these are notrequired for someone to be appointed as a claims handler. If you choose your own firm of solicitors to conduct your claim, you will be able to make your own assessment of their competence.
The unfortunate truth is that there will always be a risk of negligence when engaging the services of any professional. A ‘significant failure’ can include: overlooking important information; giving bad or careless advice; and under-settling an injury claim. However, there are undoubtedly factors that increase its likelihood and the presence of overworked and under-qualified staff is surely one of them. Whilst a separate professional negligence claim can be made if your personal injury claim suffers from poor legal representation, it is infinitely preferable to avoid being the victim of professional negligence in the first place.
Their offices may be nowhere near you – This might not be a concern for you, but those who like to be able to meet the people dealing with their claim face-to-face, are given the option to do so when using a local firm. A firm allocated to you by a claims management company may be miles away from your location. At Truth Legal, we prefer to meet our clients so that we can build trust and a strong working relationship.
What can I do?
If you already have a case ongoing, consider your position:
Are you happy with the way your case is being conducted?
Do you trust your legal representative?
If you are planning to start a personal injury claim:
Are you satisfied it would be effectively pursued through a claims management company?
Are you satisfied that you would receive knowledgeable, professional advice with your unique situation in mind?
Whatever your answers might be to those questions it is important to remember that you have the right to choose who is to represent you. Make sure that your choice of law firm is one that you are happy with.
My name is Andrew Gray and I founded Truth Legal in 2012. I am committed to offering an ethical and affordable alternative to those who wish to avoid the personal injury industry as it is commonly envisaged.
If you are considering instructing us to make your claim, please feel free to contact us for more information. If you already have legal representatives acting for you and you wish to switch solicitors to Truth Legal, we can arrange this quickly and easily.
Our head office is in Harrogate but Truth Legal also has virtual offices in Manchester and London. We are more than willing to sit down with you for a free, no-obligation consultation and to discuss any ways in which we can help you.
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