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SRA outlines new concerns around holiday sickness claims

Holiday claims: Solicitors taking on cases without expertise

More types of poor conduct by claimant solicitors in the holiday sickness market have been uncovered, their regulator has warned.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has updated a warning notice [1] issued less than a year ago to reflect the new issues that have arisen since then as the crackdown on misconduct over sickness claims continues.

It said it has been working closely with the Claims Management Regulation Unit (CMRU) and Association of British Travel Agents “to tackle the false claims culture”.

Last September’s warning notice sought to make sure [2] solicitors did not get involved in fraudulent claims.

The update includes concerns that solicitors are acting where they had no skill in area, failing to verify the source of the client referral – such as whether it was from an authorised claims management company (CMC) – making unreasonable requests for disclosure, and failing to advise clients about what would be expected of them when making a claim.

The SRA has also added material to the legal regulators’ Legal Choices website to warn the public about the consequences of being caught up in false claims.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: “This issue is still very much a concern. While the number of claims has fallen, it’s important that solicitors are aware of the pitfalls especially at peak holiday season…

“Our updated warning notice makes it clear that any solicitor handling holiday sickness claims must carry out proper due diligence, make sure they advise clients properly and that they are dealing with a genuine case where the client is seeking legal help of their own accord.”

He said the SRA was investigating 18 cases of potential misconduct by solicitors over false holiday sickness claims.

The CMRU’s annual report last month [3] said that misconduct in the holiday sickness sector “has significantly reduced, as has the general level of holiday sickness claims activity”.

Whereas 225 CMCs said they did holiday sickness claims in August 2017, the number was down to 140 by January 2018.

However, also last month, the Ministry of Justice warned solicitors and CMCs [4] that it was prepared to take action if they move on from gastric illness to target other types of package holiday injury claims.

This would mean extending the fixed-costs regime that earlier this year was applied to sickness claims.

The current state of the holiday sickness market and next year’s new regulatory regime for CMCs are among the issues that will be discussed at PI Futures conference, being held on 18 September in Liverpool. Click here [5] for all the details.