I’ve been a personal injury solicitor for many years now. The longer you remain in the profession the more you see certain “waves” of cases, or marketing initiatives come along. They’re rarely a new type of case altogether: normally something that has always been there but perhaps not well known to the public.
Take the example of industrial deafness cases: there had always been such claims but before say 2010 there was not much in the way of publication/advertising and as a consequence the claims tended to be dealt with only by trade union law firms, who had contacts at various trade unions who in turn made members/employees aware of the right to claim.
Government changes to legal costs in personal injury cases in 2012 suddenly made industrial disease, in particular industrial deafness, cases appear more profitable compared to other types of case, such as injury at work claims, hence law firms began to market more towards such cases. Increased marketing led to increased public awareness, and increased public awareness led to more people consulting solicitors, which led to more claims.
Now, for the insurance companies that pay out on such cases, this was bad news. Their ideal of course is that premiums are collected but payouts not made. Suddenly the public was aware of their right to claim, similar to what happened with personal injury claims, in particular road traffic accident claims, in the early 2000’s.
Unable to change the law itself the insurance industry reacted the only way it could with newspaper articles and television programmes seeking to portray industrial deafness cases as somehow suspicious or fraudulent. I can tell you with great certainty, industrial deafness clients tend to be the most honest and straightforward clients lawyers will interact with: hardworking older people who laboured for decades in noisy factories and unpleasant conditions the likes of which the modern generation would baulk at. It is by definition virtually impossible to bring a fraudulent industrial deafness case as there not only needs to be scientifically validated hearing test result, which cannot be faked, but also HMRC proof of where the person worked, and for what years. Still, I suspect a large cross-section of society when asked would consider such claims potentially suspicious at the least.
In essence, the same thing has happened with holiday claims. For reasons too complicated to explain here, further legal costs changes in recent years have made holiday sickness claims e.g. food poisoning, comparatively more profitable, hence some law firms have increased marketing in this area, which has led to a 500% increase in claims since 2013 according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).
ABTA have asked David Lidington, Justice Secretary, to change the law so as to stop such cases being comparatively more profitable on the notion that reduced profitability will lead to reduced marketing and so on.
Spain and Turkey appear to have been the biggest targets and Spanish lawyers are now threatening criminal repercussions for those who bring a fraudulent claim.
In my view it is always a delicate balance between marketing for cases and the inference of encouraging members of the public to make opportunistic, or perhaps even fraudulent claims. I do not profess to be knowledgeable about holiday claims (I’ve dealt with a few over the years) but my gut feeling is that the claims are likely genuine – fraudulent personal injury cases on the whole, despite what the insurance industry and tabloid media spout, are very rare – not many people would risk criminal conviction for a couple of thousand pounds.
Assuming they are genuine (in the vast majority) how much marketing is too much? Should the public have to find out independently and seek legal advice? True, this would most likely weed out some of the more opportunistic claims e.g. mild injuries but, going back to the example about industrial deafness cases, many hardworking people with significant hearing damage went without compensation as they didn’t know they could claim and by the time they found out the legal time limits had expired. Should we, as a society, keep quiet about legal rights for fear of being seen as “encouraging” claims, albeit (in the majority) genuine ones?
For me, law firms on the whole strike about the right balance, the problem is likely the middlemen – companies who market claims to the public and then forward their details to solicitors.
Aston Knight Solicitors have always avoided such “waves” of cases, choosing instead, with regard to personal injury claims, to specialise in serious injury claims, accident at work claims, fatalities and medical negligence where the need for an experienced, specialist solicitor is paramount and often makes a tremendous difference to those left with life-changing injuries.
Aston Knight Solicitors Bury are a specialist firm of solicitors in Bury that specialise in serious injuries including medical negligence claims and injury at work claims. If you would like to discuss further please contact a member of our team on 0161 447 9191 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free and confidential discussion.