August 24, 2012

The ABI’s Malcolm Starling appears to have some strange ideas about where claims managers and ambulance chasers choose to live and work. “Whiplash claims seem to be a cottage industry in this country,” he told Daily Mail reporters this week, apparently stumped for anything more original or earcatching to offer by way of a quote on the subject. In an ill-fated attempt at redeeming himself, he went on to explain that “at the moment it is too easy to bring a fraudulent claim,” stumbling on to reveal exclusively that “we want to make it harder for somebody who hasn’t been injured in an accident to bring a dishonest claim”.

Unsure as Bankstone News must confess itself to be as to exactly how people who haven’t been injured can be expected to make honest PI claims, we can at least reveal that sinister forces are attempting to push British motorists in precisely the opposite direction to Mr Startling i.e. they are trying to make it harder for somebody who hasn’t been injured in an accident NOT to bring a dishonest claim!

Hapless simpleton Andre Whopper featured prominently in the Daily Mail as the protagonist in a pitiful account of his being sued by no-win no-fee lawyers for declining to pursue a fraudulent whiplash claim. Rugby playing, Saab driving, Somerset resident Mr Hopper – or Mr Hooper (the Mail article calls him both, so it’s hard to tell) – was involved in an accident in July 2010, after which his neck felt a bit stiff. He claims then to have been plagued incessantly by unsolicited sales calls form claims management firms, manfully resisting their blandishments until finally in November 2011 he was a bit short of cash and was swayed by an assurance that: ‘Sir, there’s £3,000 with your name on it.’

Some might argue that in agreeing to make a knowingly fraudulent claim Mr Hooper/Hopper did wrong. But let us not leap too quickly to judgement: “It was a brilliant whiplash sales pitch from the claims guy,” explains Hooper/Hopper (presumably something of an authority on the subject after more than a year of fielding “sometimes several calls a day”) “and I could not say no to him.” Plus, Hooper/Hopper reveals, he was under intolerable personal pressures at the time – presumably from a home-improvements minded spouse – and concluded that “the money would come in handy. I could sort out the carpets and pay for a bit of decorating. It would really take the pressure off.”

Rather than censure Mr Hooper/Hopper we should perhaps pity him as a broken-spirited wretch with no apparent will of his own – someone, in short, who would have been literally unable to say no either to the house proud spouse whom Bankstone News has invented for him or to some smooth talking telesales monkey from an unnamed claims firm – someone, moreover so touchingly innocent of the ways of the world that he considered it a good idea to parade his weak-willed venality across the pages of a national newspaper, thus trashing forever anything that might remain of his personal reputation.

Why would he do that? you may wonder. Aha – our story is barely half done. Miraculously, Hooper/Hopper has a last minute crisis of conscience and attempts to withdraw from his claim on the very threshold of the independent medical expert’s GP surgery. Concluding that he could not lie to a medical professional, Hoops/Hops contacted solicitors Roland Robinsons and Fentons advising them that he felt OK now and didn’t want the claim to go ahead. RRF prompty responded with a bill for £1,140 for costs thus far incurred.

Hooper/Hopper was incensed. Casting about frantically for the sword and truth and the trusty shield of fair play, he declared that “I have fallen foul of a rotten claims culture which does nothing to rectify its wrongs. I have been stitched up and could be royally ripped off by a sordid, disreputable process.”

The thing of which Mr H had actually fallen foul, of course, was his own blundering stupidity – that and the small matter of a legally binding contract with which RRF, like that unappealingly manicured Lou Cipher bloke in that film with Mickey Rourke, can have Hooper/Hopper over the proverbial barrel any time they like. That he still doesn’t get this, and sees fit to proclaim his wrongheaded actions to the world at large confirms that Hooper/Hopper is a man in need of help.

Ironically, as Mail reader Dave, Spain points out in an online post: “He should have simply carried on with the medical, telling the doctors that he no longer had any pain and let the solicitors pick the bones out of that. His conscience would be clear and it would be up to the solicitors if they wanted to proceed with the case with no evidence of injury.”

In recognition of Hooper/Hopper’s late conversion to the path of righteousness, however, and his noble refusal to rip off honest motorists by forcing insurers to increase their premiums, perhaps the UK’s motor insurance providers might care to organise a whip-round to support him in mounting a stout legal defence of his thoroughly compromised position by arguing that “a salesman made me do it” and that since claims firms and no-win no-fee lawyers are manifestly evil their contracts don’t count, and then – if there’s any cash left over – perhaps it could go towards the purchase of some new furniture and maybe some curtains for the Hooper/Hopper lounge.

Does not the bible, after all, say something about joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance? Although, on the other hand, it might be worth noting that – with or without the very public intervention of a national newspaper – a remarkably small percentage of those who have contractually assigned their souls to the so-called Prince of Darkness have ever succeeded in claiming them back.


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