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Why settle for anything else than a four year battle with the defendant?

I rarely read newspapers because I've noticed an increasing trend towards sensationalism in most of them over recent years, however our resident PR/Media guru Danielle Gibson keeps us all up to date on what is being written about the Personal Injury industry. I am a senior associate at JMW and I specialise in representing people who have suffered serious injuries following an accident that wasn't their fault, be it at work, on the road or in a public place.

According to the likes of the Daily Mail and the transport select committee, this makes me an ambulance chasing, dirty, no win no fee lawyer and the reason why everyone's car insurance premiums are going up.  This is despite all evidence to the contrary that the idea of "compensation culture is a myth, created and perpetuated by the media and insurance companies.  However, I'm sure this evidence is wrong.  After all insurance companies always have the interests of their customers at heart don't they? They aren't driven by profits for shareholders and they love paying out on claims that are made.  They certainly wouldn't try and skew the media in their favour to get public opinion on their side¦

To be frank, the reason why premiums are going up is because the insurers want to make more money. Premium rises are nothing to do with honest lawyers. We are just trying to do the best for our clients and get them the most compensation that we can. A lot of my clients have life-changing injuries; they deserve every penny that they get and more. I've never chased an ambulance in my life - I'm too slow nowadays anyway (although I've still got the 100 metre sprint record at my secondary school from when I was 13!).

Insurers could preserve their profits if they and their lawyers dealt with cases properly. Take my recently settled case for a delightful middle aged African woman who had the misfortune of having a rear end shunt road traffic accident back in September 2007. Due to the injuries she sustained in the accident, she was never able to return to work after this and needed help with day to day tasks from her son.  The first offer we had on the case in June 2010 was for £30,500. She rejected that and we made a counter offer in July 2010 for £130,000 that the defence then rejected. On the basis of updated medical evidence that each side got towards the end of last year we withdrew our offer in November 2011. We were set for a trial at Central London County Court in early February and then all of a sudden the defence lawyers springs to life and offers our client £150,000 exactly three weeks before the trial is due to start. I managed to negotiate them up to £160,000. My client is delighted with the outcome but I do wonder why she had to go through another 18 months of stressful litigation when we made a fair offer to settle based on the evidence available at the time.

Here we are 18 months later and the claim has cost the insurer more than five times what they offered to settle for initially, £30,000 more than what we were initially prepared to settle for and 18 more months' worth of legal fees. This will clearly go some way towards impacting on car insurance premiums as the insurer responsible for the defendant will claim that this case has impacted upon their profit margin, and so they need to put their premiums up in order to continue to make a profit.  They will fail to point out their resistance to settle the case fairly, and just try to get a cheap settlement has negatively impacted their handling of the case.  But what I can't understand is why the press don't publish cases like this as an example of why insurers are driving premiums up?  This question is obviously rhetorical. I know the answer - because they don't want people to know. It destroys their arguments for drastic change that this government is hell bent on implementing and the myths that we are all devious no win no fee vultures who rip them all off and have developed a compensation culture that is a scourge on our society.

I do worry about how the changes will impact on everyone when implemented and not just those who have suffered serious injuries like my client who I have referred to above.

I just hope that we never get to a point where the powerful insurance lobby manages to convince the government that injured people don't need lawyers any more (especially those that chase ambulances) because they'll settle all cases in house and I don't have faith that they'll do so fairly.

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