Transparency is king

David Vine

Vine: Customers should not be seen as easy prey

Posted by David Vine, business development manager at Litigation Futures Associate Allianz Legal Protection

The life of a claimant personal injury lawyer seems to be as miserable as that of our prime minister; everywhere they turn there’s someone ready to make life ever more difficult.

The recent cases of Ferri v Gill and Herbert v HH Law highlight the myriad of challenge to law firms’ business models and the uncertainty of what’s awaiting them around the corner.

The Herbert case from an after-the-event (ATE) insurer’s perspective is an interesting one. The fact that the ATE premium wasn’t seen as a disbursement wasn’t surprising, but when you see the premiums being charged it certainly raised eyebrows.

When will the industry, and I include insurers in this, learn that premiums must properly reflect the risk the policyholder faces and isn’t there to line the pockets of those doing very little or indeed anything in the process?

I’ve had claims management companies approach me enquiring what our premiums are and then telling me they can get far more, so why can’t we charge that? I simply ask: how is that in the best interests of the customer?

One would hope that such companies now falling under the regulation of the Financial Conduct Authority will bring a stop to this, especially with its continued focus on fair pricing. This doesn’t just mean that customers are treated the same whether it’s a renewal or new business, but ensures that premiums adequately reflect the risk.

However, with so many personal injury law firms struggling to survive, I fear that desperation will lead them to source work from the less scrupulous businesses that are out there.

The market needs to be far more transparent. A person who’s suffered a genuine injury shouldn’t be seen as a pawn by both defendant and claimant firms to score points or indeed make money unreasonably from.

If there’s little risk in a liability admitted RTA fast-track case that settles in the portal, how can a premium of £350 be justified? Where is the risk?

Likewise in the Ferri case, how can a defendant offer £1,500 on a case that settles for over £40,000 and then argue about whether fixed costs should apply?

Personal injury solicitors are not always seen in the best light and these cases, to my mind, don’t help the industry at all. Though who can blame law firms for looking to maximise income when everything else is seemingly being done to reduce their profit margin?

Like so many other industries, the time has come to stop seeing customers or the general public as easy prey. The only way the industry will bring confidence back is by being transparent about the cost of the services that it provides.

This means no hidden extras or surprises and growing your business with quality service. On the flip side, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to make a legitimate profit.

The sooner we realise that being clear, open and honest across the whole supply chain is the way forward, the sooner trust and confidence can be restored.

Associate News is provided by Legal Futures Associates.
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