What is Third Party Capturing?
Claimant solicitors and their professional bodies describe capturing of an injured party by a drivers road traffic insurers as third party capture. In practical terms this means injured persons are approached direct by the insurance company of the driver who is negligent and who maybe legally responsible for the cause of the accident. The person could be the injured by his/her own driver and/or by another car hence the reference to the “third party”. Many road traffic insurers are approaching injured person direct and are negotiating settlement of the injured party’s claim without the involvement of professional advisers and medical evidence.
Why is it in the news?
The Radio 4 Money Programme carried out research amongst members of the public and found evidence of insurance companies approaching injured parties direct and settling their legitimate claims. They in fact interviewed an employee of Queens Direct who was heavily involved in this process and who admitted on the programme that there were financial incentives given to him by his employers to try and approach as many injured parties as possible direct and to settle those claims without the involvement of medical and legal advisers.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and also many other bodies representing injured parties have taken up this matter with the Association of British Insurers, the Law Society and those reviewing Access to Justice.
The Association of British Insurers said on the programme that this was not widespread and one that they did not tolerate. This is contrary to the evidence and confession made by the Queens employee.
We ourselves have been involved in one incident where two teenage passengers were approached by their father’s insurer to settle their claim without medical evidence and most importantly legal advice. Whilst the insurers always indicate that the recipient of the letter should seek independent legal advice it is always their hope and they work on the balance of chance that a certain percentage of people would not seek advice and deal with them direct.
In our instance cases two offers were made for £1,000.00 and £1,500.00. These teenagers were lucky as their parents were aware of our practice having advised them in the past. On our representation the £1,000.00 claim was settled for £1,500.00 and more importantly the £1,500.00 claim which was a more serious injury settled for £20,000.00. At the end of the day the teenagers did not suffer financially as their legal costs were paid by the insurers. Most importantly we were able to settle the more serious injury claim for substantially more than what they would have settled for if we were not involved.
Why Do Insurer’s Do This?
The insurers work on balance of probability that a certain number of injured parties when approached with an offer in writing would be tempted to settle without seeking professional legal advice. They do so in expectation that the claim itself would be settled for a lot less than if the lawyers were involved and more importantly would also save on legal costs. Therefore the insurers have financial incentives to continue to use this approach in expectations that out of ten a certain number of injured parties would deal with them direct saving themselves huge amounts on both legal costs and damages.
Why if you are injured and in that position you should not do it?
There is no benefit whatsoever in dealing with the insurers direct by you. In fact there is every chance that not only with lawyers involvement will enable you to obtain a better settlement but your injuries will be properly investigated. It would be tantamount to negligence to advise a client to settlement for a personal injury claim without the benefit of a medical report. Therefore your solicitor will obtain your medical records and obtain a medico legal report before valuing your claim. You will have therefore the benefit of having had a second medical opinion on your injury and also a better prospect of a larger settlement.
If you are concerned that consulting a lawyer will cost you, you should know that even claims settled out of Court attract an entitlement for legal costs. Therefore not only will you receive a properly investigated award for your injury but it will not cost you anything at all as all your solicitors fees and other expenses will be paid by the insurers.
There is therefore no advantage at all to you to deal with insurers direct but many benefits for consulting a legal adviser before dealing with the insurers.
Whilst there is no evidence that insurers will put pressure on members of the public at the time when you are recovering from your injury it may be tempting to accept an offer which to you may look attractive that would have been made for a lot less than your entitlement. Most importantly if you do settle a claim in those circumstances there are serious arguments that you will not be able to go back and renegotiate should your injuries turn out to be a lot more serious than you initially thought.
This is a hot topic and we always advise all our clients and readers to consult a lawyer if you are faced with that situation. In personal injury claims all solicitors will accept your instructions on a no-win-no-fee basis and therefore there is no expense to you in getting free legal advice.
For further information contact Nasir from our Bolton Office and Abdul Hafezi from the London Office.