The evolution of the UK personal injury claims market has replicated, at least to a certain extent, its US counterpart. Many years ago the thought of claiming compensation for all injuries received as a consequence of negligence by one or more third parties was generally unheard-of. Many people automatically assumed that this process was the domain of “more serious injuries”. However, there is much more to the personal injury claims market than just compensation.
We will now take a look at the evolution of the UK personal injury claims market and some of the major changes and talking points along the way.
Lighting the blue touch paper
If we go back many years to the relative infancy of the UK personal injury claims market, do you remember the “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” slogan? This was the spark that lit the blue touch paper to the UK personal injury claims market we see before us today. There was nothing wrong with the underlying idea, pursuing compensation for negligence by one or more third parties, but sometimes there was limited consideration of the actual detail.
Searching the likes of Google will bring up an array of “suspect” personal injury claims from years gone by. Tripping over paving stones and holidays from hell are just two prime examples of actions which were perhaps subconsciously encouraged by the headline grabbing slogan. Thankfully, over the years we have seen a significant reorganisation of the personal injury claims market. Indeed, the last 12 months and the next 12 months will see yet more changes to the system.
Paying out on costly action
In the aftermath of the new trend towards personal injury claims many insurance companies took the decision to pay out on relatively minor claims rather than pursue a potentially expensive legal defence. The fact that in the early days there was perhaps not the same level of evidence required is a major factor. There is no suggestion that the majority of claims in the early days were anything but bona fide but the decision by insurance companies not to defend relatively minor claims would create a problem further down the line.
Criminal gangs very quickly realised that seeking compensation for “accidents” below a certain level would make it uneconomical for insurance companies to defend. What began as a relatively small trickle of fraudulent claims quickly snowballed into a huge problem. As the cost of defending claims continued to rise, the cut-off point for uncontested claims also followed suit. This is still a problem in some areas, for example foreign holiday-related claims, but there is no doubt it has been significantly reduced.
Access to additional data
The online revolution has impacted everyday lives as well as all areas of business. Access to additional data for insurance companies has proven to be vital when fighting the threat of fraudulent activity in the personal injury claims market. Social media has proven to be an extremely useful tool with many would-be fraudsters often foolishly posting photographs which seemed at odds with their injury claims. Indeed, many insurance companies employ the skills of various investigative agencies to see if red flags indicating suspicious claims are valid.
While many people were up in arms when they found out insurance companies were undertaking background checks and monitoring social media, although understandable it was still perfectly legal. If the claimant had nothing to hide then the deepest of digging into their background and delving into their social media habits would make no difference to their claim. In many ways the fact that the insurance companies were more than happy to publicise this particular strategy has been of great assistance with fighting serious fraudulent activity.
Addressing anomalies in the system
In recent times we have seen the government tackling an array of anomalies in the personal injury claims system which have historically proven difficult to rectify. The capping of, for example, whiplash injury compensation and the legal expenses associated with a claim are already beginning to bite. The fraudsters have seen their potential returns significantly reduced while those with bone fide claims are still happy to proceed. In many ways it comes down to the risk/reward ratio for the fraudsters and in this particular area the risks seem greater than the potential rewards – just now. There is an argument that the government have gone too far but these things tend to balance out over time.
We have also seen huge investment in new technology and computer systems which can scan current and historic claim details to find trends, patterns and potentially fraudulent activity. The opportunity to effectively join the dots is a very powerful new tool which the insurance companies are certainly making good use of. In effect this is artificial intelligence which is certainly the way forward for this type of data gathering and data analysis. We can only imagine the hours saved using this type of system not to mention the patterns and potentially fraudulent claims which have been identified.
In days gone by the opportunity to take a photograph of an incident on your mobile phone was not available. Even during the 1980s, as the mobile phones became more popular, the quality of the camera functions was often limited to say the least. Fast forward a few years and not only do we have high definition photographs but high definition videos. It is now extremely easy to take photographic/video evidence of the scene which can also confirm weather conditions, position of vehicles and be used as evidence in court. As they say, what can’t speak can’t lie, so for many people this type of new technology has proven priceless.
There is also another technological advancement which has proven to be extremely useful when attempting to disprove (or prove) claims. We have seen numerous instances of dash cams highlighting fraudulent activity when it comes to road traffic accidents. Believe it or not, there are numerous cases which have been pursued for fraudulent activity which show criminal gangs backing vehicles and even motorbikes into other vehicles. Then, all of a sudden, a “witness” who was in fact an accomplice will emerge on the scene to provide evidence further down the line.
In general, where there is evidence that a vehicle or motorbike has been hit from behind it is generally the driver of the vehicle behind who is held responsible. So, we can only imagine how many potentially fraudulent cases have been dropped as a consequence of footage from a simple dash cam. On the flipside of the coin, they can also prove very useful if they record evidence of a bona fide accident.
Personal injury claims – more than just compensation
It may seem bizarre to suggest that personal injury claims are about more than just compensation. Surely that is the whole purpose of the personal injury claims industry? Pursuing compensation from those who have acted negligently and caused injury? Well, yes and no.
There is obviously the need to ensure that those who have suffered injury and an impact in other areas of their life are financially compensated. However, for many the main benefit of the whole personal injury claims industry is the way in which employers especially, and many other third parties, have been forced to rethink the way they operate. In years gone by, there may well have been various injuries in the workplace which were never pursued and some may not even have been noted in the accident book. The system is very different today with all employers legally obliged to note all incidents in the accident book together with details.
Very often these notes can help when gathering evidence of systematic negligence or perhaps other less obvious patterns emerging. At the end of the day, no company can afford the financial and reputational damage which comes with constant bad press about safety in the workplace.
Guidance from personal injury claims solicitors
If you believe you have a potential claim for negligence and compensation as a consequence of injuries received, your first port of call should be a personal injury claims solicitor. They will review your case, going through the details with you, and then advise whether or not it should be pursued. The emergence of No Win No Fee arrangements has also assisted those seeking compensation because legal representation, and the associated costs, can very quickly add up. The personal injury claims industry that we see before us today is very different to that of 20 years ago or even 10 years ago.
The industry has certainly come a long way since the “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” era with heavy regulation and capped compensation/expenses in some areas. It will be interesting to see whether this has a material impact on the number of fraudulent cases identified by insurance companies. The artificial intelligence systems many insurance companies are now employing are extremely powerful – they will need this power to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters!