A blog article by Jonathan White
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) this week launched its new voluntary code of conduct for members dealing with road traffic victims.
According to the ABI, the new code of conduct will protect the interests of accident victims by limiting the practice of third-party capture. This is the practice whereby an injury victim is contacted by an organisation with which they have no relationship whatsoever, usually the insurer of the party at fault, and encouraged to make or settle a potential claim with them.
Whilst it may appear encouraging to see the insurance industry fight the corner of the injury victim, the code is in fact a smoke screen designed to give inappropriate practices an air of respectability. The code of conduct doesn't go far enough in challenging dubious practices. Third-party capture is a breach of privacy. It also breaches a person's right to make their own decision as to whether to contact someone about a claim - particularly in the wake of an accident, when victims are at their most vulnerable.
It challenges the position of independent legal advice within the claims process, increases the number of claims in the UK legal system and represents a substantial conflict of interest for insurers.
Even where cases appear straightforward, an unrepresented claimant has no way of knowing if they have been properly compensated. The at-fault insurance company's primary duty is to their shareholders, not the injured person. Claims which the insurance industry describes as small are often of significant importance - particularly to lower income families, where a compensation payment of £1,000 can mean the difference between paying the rent or not.
The code is a small step towards addressing this issue, but its underlying purpose is not to protect injured people; it is a tool to persuade government that insurers are capable of driving out dubious practices via self regulation and the legislation on third party capture and pre-medical offers is not required. The focus needs to be on protecting and empowering injured people with genuine claims. They deserve the right to seek the best outcome. They deserve independent representation, rather than vested interests.
Furthermore, the code is not mandatory and there is no sanction for non-compliance.
At National Accident Helpline we only support genuine claims. Our legally trained advisors help people work out whether they have a genuine claim and we then connect them with approved solicitors, spanning 40 specialist law firms. Every injury victim deserves a representative that will truly pursue their best interests.
We have voiced our concerns about third-party capture for a number of years and actively sought to ban this practice during the passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill. It remains to be seen whether this code will actually have any positive outcome for injured people. We will continue to fight for the underdog in ensuring they get representation from personal injury specialists following accidents.
Safeguards are welcome, but independent advice must be at the heart of any reform.