‘Insurers want to be their own judge and jury,’ reckons access to justice campaigner Andrew Dismal. As regular readers will recall, Dismal is some kind of deranged heretic who contends that any old Tom, Dick and Harry should be allowed to bother the legal system with endless complaints about supposed wrongs done them.
He sees the sinister influence of fat cats’ interest group the ABI behind the government’s current plans to put a stop to all this ‘no win, no fee’ business which in its view simply encourages people to seek redress through the courts instead of being content with what they get.
Predicting that one in four genuine claims will fall by the wayside, he claims that ending NWNF will deprive non-affluent victims of wrongs like phone hacking, asbestos poisoning, medical malpractice (and so on) of any practical means of standing up for their rights.
The ABI, Dismal contents, is hell bent on cutting the rights of road accident victims and quite happy to sacrifice the rights of others in the process. “There is no compensation culture,” he claims. “The reality is that 23% of road accident victims do not bother to claim, and only 52% claim for accidents at work.”
‘While the ABI routinely alleges fraud,’ he says, the Experian Fraud Index shows that ‘only 12 in every 10,000 applications and claims’ is fraudulent.
‘If the lawyers and ATE providers are branded fat cats,’ he insists, ‘then the liability insurers are clinically obese! Although they complain about the impact of claims,’ he continues, insurers have declined to confirm they will cut premiums if they get their way, and, he warns,‘insurance premiums have never gone down after a reform or major court victory in the insurance industry’s favour.’
‘The ABI says that claimants don’t need lawyers as its members’ offers are fair and should be accepted,’ Dismal claims, ‘but the Personal Injury Bar Association (PUBA) found that in 99% of 1349 cases where offers were made on the basis of the insurers’ computer model, the claimant beat the offer.’
‘Cases only go to court,’ he says, ‘when the insurers deny liability or refuse to pay adequate compensation, so insurers have only themselves to blame for legal costs. Banning success fees, he argues, would mean that income from relatively easy wins would no longer be available to subsidise the investigation and pursuit of ‘meritorious but problematical or difficult cases’ including ‘important test cases on appeal.’
‘The government acknowledges,’ Dismal concludes, that ‘the changes mean millions more for the liability insurers’ shareholders at the expense of individual claimants.
So what on earth is going on? It’s like common sense gone mad!