January 26, 2012

The Daily Mail is justly feted for its Squeezed-Middle-Englander type take on who should be banged up/banned/deported etc. Looks like insurance people could now be in the paper’s sights.

Quite literally sickened by the fact that the average TPFT motor insurance premium has supposedly risen from £333 (the number of the demi-beast) to £1,510 in the last 18 years, the Mail decided, in characteristic style, to get to the bottom of the matter.

Back in the day, the Mail laments, premiums were “spent on fixing cars after a crash.” Whereas today they mostly go on “feathering the nests of claims companies and their lawyers… and even the police are in on the game.”

Bankstone News could barely believe its eyes on reading these stomach-turning revelations. So, putting aside all thoughts of coffee mornings, antiques fairs and BNP rallies we decided to investigate the matter fully – by pouring another cheeky pre-lunch G&T, lighting up a B&H and reading the rest of the article. And this, Dear Reader, in a nutshell, is what we learned…

The case study/human interest bit

A slightly foreign sounding – but actually really nice – accountant called Marek Majewski inadvertently strayed within the dolorous orbit of “the unblinking Leviathan that is the modern motor-insurance industry” which near-enough accused him of being the sort of person who would show “reckless abandon” behind the wheel of his Renault Espace.

Here’s what happened: Marek and wife Wendy, 52, nipped down the local pub in Balham and “brushed the front bumper of a parked taxi’ as they pulled up. Its owner appeared sanguine about the rubber marks left by the Espace. Marek took a snapshot on his smartphone, which actually takes a surprisingly decent photo, and he and the taxi man exchanged details, agreeing not to get insurers involved.

That, you might think, would have been the end of the matter. But was it? It was not. Far from it. No, it was, in fact, the cue for “an entire industry of opportunistic businessmen and trade professionals to go to work and extract as much money from the incident as possible.”

A letter arrived from a firm of solicitors in far-off Lancashire claiming that Marek had driven “recklessly.” Already sputtering, no doubt, from the rank injustice of this initial slur, Wendy – for it was she who first perused this impertinent missive – skimmed down to the fifth paragraph where something caught her eye that quite literally “inflamed her.”

The Lancashire lawyers appeared to be claiming that the taxi owner had suffered whiplash. “He wasn’t in the car!” Wendy remembers. And even if he had been, “Marek was going so slowly the impact couldn’t possibly have caused any such injury. I was furious,” she told the paper.

When the Majewski’s insurers Admiral contacted Wendy – who was firmly at the helm of proceedings by now – she agreed to accept liability for the rubbery scuffs but not for the injury. The woman from Admiral said “there are obviously ‘more questions’ in relation to the medical claims.” “There certainly are!” Wendy recalls agreeing with emphasis.

And there, alas, we must leave this vivid drama of low-speed South London taxi brushing, for the Mail reveals no more, noting merely that “The Majewskis’ experience is becoming increasingly common.” The which contention, given the enduring popularity of nipping out to the pub in the car and the growing profusion of parked taxis on Britain’s streets, Bankstone News can easily believe to be true.

Some other stuff

“The Association of British Insurers estimates that 1,562 whiplash claims are made every day in the UK, costing insurers £2 billion,” the Mail notes, “and it’s motorists who are left picking up the bill thanks to huge increases in motor-insurance premiums.”

So “why are premiums shooting up; and who are the guilty parties?” the Mail asks, not a moment too soon.

“There are few innocents in this story,” warns Mail reporter Adam Luck. “Ambulance-chasing lawyers with their siren calls of no win, no fee,” (so that’s two sirens, assuming, as presumably one may, that the ambulance will have one going as well at the time of chasing) “claims-management companies who promise to help you in the wake of an accident but also help themselves; and then there are the insurers. Many of those in the car-insurance industry lead lives of luxury thanks to the premiums drivers are forced to pay…”

Fondly imagining that his demagogic oratorical prowess will by this point have set his readers’ pulses racing at potentially dangerous speeds, Luck cautions: “if your blood pressure is rising and you are tempted to call 999 then don’t. Hospitals and, extraordinarily, the police are implicated in this game as well.” So there you have it: next time you think you may be about to suffer a heart attack or stroke, don’t call an ambulance – because the hospital might sell your details to an insurance firm – or you might run into a policeman on the way there.

Read more of Bankstone News’ shocking investigation into something we read in the Daily Mail in next week’s Bankstone News…


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