Why a DIY personal injury claim is a bad idea

Do you really need a solicitor at all if you are making a personal injury claim?

Personal injury claims as insurance claims

In most personal injury claim situations, it is an insurer who will be dealing with it and paying the compensation to you.

So if you have been in a car accident, you don’t deal with the other driver.

If you have had an accident at work, you don’t deal with your employers.

Insurers are driven by business considerations

Insurance companies are not charities.

They are businesses and their duties are to their shareholders.

In every claim, their priority is to pay out compensation at the lowest possible level, preferably making no payment at all.

It can be easy to lose sight of this fact.

The benefit to the insurer in getting you to deal direct with them (“Third Party Capture”)

A common practice among insurers – where they have been informed of an accident and reached the conclusion that their insured was to blame – is to contact you (the innocent, injured party) direct and try to persuade you to settle the claim straight away. This approach has come to be known as “third party capture”, which sounds dramatic but is an appropriate description.

The downside of third party capture – settling your claim for too little

The problem is that there are countless examples of third party captures where insurers have got to the point of making a settlement offer and the injured person has finally become suspicious that the insurers might not be putting forward a reasonable valuation.

The insurers have no duty or incentive to act in your best interests. The injured person has then sought legal advice and found that their claim was actually worth a lot more than the offer on the table.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has campaigned long and hard to put a stop to third party capture and they have many examples of unfair practice by insurers in this area.

The disadvantages can be very significant

An extreme example from our own files involved a client who suffered a serious head injury in an accident at work, which required surgery to remove a blood clot and left him with some brain damage.

He was only recently out of hospital when his employer’s insurers contacted him directly and made an offer of £10,000 to settle the claim. He contacted Grigor & Young and, following the raising of proceedings in the Court of Session, his claim settled for a figure in excess of £400,000.

In cases of serious injury, it is madness to settle without a medical report from at least one specialist.

In the example given above, doctors from five separate medical specialisms were required, ranging from neurology to plastic surgery.

But, of course, accident victims tend to be first-timers in that position. Your first inclination is not to be suspicious that accepting a “pre-medical offer” (i.e. one made with only a sketchy idea of the nature, extent and long-term effect of the injuries and what other losses you have) from an insurer is probably a bad idea from your point of view.

By its very nature, the full extent of third party capture is impossible to establish but the cases that come to the attention of personal injury claimant solicitors are probably only the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t add insult to injury

Where you’ve been injured, say, in a road accident and the third party insurers quickly offer you a courtesy car while your own is being repaired, it can seem that they are helping you and reducing the amount of hassle for you. But any offer they make to you for your injuries is likely to be at the lowest possible level.

The insurers know that if you involve a specialist solicitor in making your personal injury claim, they will have to pay full value to you and also meet that solicitor’s fees on an agreed scale – so there is no cost to you.

Allowing the insurers to deal with you directly, without help from a specialist solicitor, really can be adding the insult of under-settlement of your claim to the injury from the accident. Please don’t let that happen to you.

Ironically, the practice of insurers in trying to settle personal injury claims “early” and without any formal medical evidence can be argued to work against the insurers’ interests as well those of injured accident victims.

Get in touch with us for help

All enquiries made to us are free of charge and do not oblige you to continue with a claim or otherwise instruct Grigor & Young in the matter.

We will deal with your questions frankly and, if we don’t think we are the best people to help you, we will say so, recommending an alternative course of action or contact wherever possible.

Contact Peter Brash or Marie Morrison via 01343 544077 or complete and submit an online enquiry form by clicking HERE.