Friday 23 February 2018

Surge in injury claims sparks call for ban on advertising

State body says solicitors 'encourage' exaggeration

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

A SURGE in compensation claims has prompted the government body that makes personal injury awards to call for a ban on advertising by claims-handling firms.

The number of motor-related claims has shot up by a third since 2007.

In the first three months of this year, there has been a 13pc rise in all claims.

This has led to fears that more claims will lead directly to increased motor insurance premiums.

Now the Injuries Board, the state body that deals with compensation awards, has complained that what it calls "claims' farmers" and solicitors are encouraging people to make exaggerated claims.

Chief executive Patricia Byron claimed some solicitors were breaking the rules that ban them from advertising for personal injuries cases.

The setting up of the Injuries Board has seen the cost of motor insurance premiums drop by 25pc in the past 10 years.

It was designed to dispense with the need for consumers to use lawyers and go through the courts when seeking compensation – a move that hugely reduced the cost of claims for insurers.

The board does not pay solicitors' fees and does not give representation to lawyers as there are no oral hearings.

But Ms Byron said claims-harvesting firms and solicitors were now touting for business.

"In hard times, there is a push by the legal profession to get back into any space they can."

Before the Injuries Board was set up more than 10 years ago, insurers were forced to pay out around half the value of claims in legal costs.

Ms Byron said people were being approached by solicitors after having a car repaired in a garage following a crash, and after attending hospitals.

Accidents

She explained that this was because law-breaking solicitors were paying garages and others a referral fee to get the names and contact details for people who have had accidents.

There had also been an upsurge in advertising by claims management firms on the internet. Solicitors seek a fee from those they represent in the Injuries Board process, even though lawyer fees are not reimbursed by the board.

All motor, work and public liability claims have to initially be brought to the Injuries Board. But a case can be forced into courts if an award is rejected or if the claimant refuses to co-operate, she said.

The Law Society said it was currently investigating suspected breaches of the Solicitors Advertising Regulations.

Irish Independent

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