In the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise famously states that “We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors.” This quote is of some interest in relation to personal injury claims which we will come to shortly. Tom Cruise then goes on to state “I want you. You… complete me.” The second part of the quote is not quite so relevant and indeed Jackson Boyd have never received a compliment quite at that level but for positive feedback from our clients please read our testimonials.
Increasingly in the news there is a focus on those individuals who pursue fraudulent personal injury claims, normally following a car accident. Most personal injury lawyers will at some stage encounter negative comments regarding the individuals that they represent.
While it cannot be disputed that from time to time insurers will have to defend claims of a fraudulent nature this is most certainly not the norm and what should not be forgotten is that there are many safeguards in place to ensure that those few individuals do not obtain the rewards that they seek through their criminal actions.
Some sections of the media would have you believe that in order to obtain compensation from an insurance company all you have to do is ring them up and tell them that you have suffered an injury and this was caused in an accident, liability for which rests with their policyholder. The insurers then simply write a cheque, send it to you and that is the end of the matter. Fortunately, for all concerned within the profession, the reality is far different.
Professional and Ethical Obligations
The first safeguard in place is the conduct of the solicitor that the injured party instructs to represent them. At Jackson Boyd our staff are trained so that they can detect any red flags that may indicate that a new claim may be a fraudulent one. Thankfully, it is fairly rare to receive a claim where it is clear that compensation is being pursued by fraudulent means. Nevertheless, in the situation where such a claim was received we would immediately cease acting on behalf of that individual and notify the relevant bodies and the police.
Jackson Boyd and all of our solicitors are members of the Law Society of Scotland and have a duty to conduct themselves in both a professional and ethical manner. Our professional obligations are such that we would not contemplate dealing with a case where we were not 100% certain that the client’s personal injury claim was a genuine one.
Investigations by the Insurers
The next stage for any individual pursuing a claim in Scotland would be for their solicitors to intimate their personal injury claim on the insurers of the responsible third-party driver. On receiving that claim, and as mentioned above, the insurers will not simply lie down and admit liability. If there is any suggestion of fraudulent activity the insurers will fully investigate the claim by taking statements from their policyholder, any passengers, any independent witnesses and even from the police officers who may attended the accident scene. They may also visit the accident location and inspect the damage sustained to both of the vehicles. If, after conducting these investigations, the third-party insurers are not satisfied that the claim is genuine they can simply refuse to deal with the claim and it would then be left for that individual and their solicitors to decide whether or not to take the matter further.
In the vast majority of personal injury claims a medical report will be required from a medical expert. The expert will examine the injured party, consider the medical records and then prepare a report detailing the accident circumstances, the injuries sustained by the individual and whether they were caused by the accident. The medical expert will be independent and their duty is to the court and not to either of the parties involved in the dispute. Again, like solicitors, the medical experts will have ethical obligations and therefore if they do not consider that the injuries were accident related, or detected any indication of exaggeration or even fraud, then they would refer to that within the report and alert the solicitors accordingly.
If the medical report instructed on behalf of the individual’s personal injury claim was supportive of his injuries having been caused by the accident the third party insurers are not required to simply accept this. They can instruct a second opinion from a medical expert of their choosing. Even, if they were then to receive their own medical report supporting the injured party’s position there is still no obligation on them to make any offer and indeed the likelihood is that they would still maintain that this is an exaggerated or fraudulent claim.
If the solicitor acting for the injured party considered that this was a genuine claim and this was supported by the investigations that had been undertaken and indeed by the report from the medical expert then the next stage would be for the individual to raise court proceedings. This is yet another safeguard in preventing fraud. A Judge or Sheriff, who would be entirely independent, would hear evidence regarding the accident circumstances from the drivers involved and possibly from other witnesses including passengers and police officers. The court would also hear evidence from the medical experts regarding whether the individual was indeed injured and if so whether it was in any way related to the accident. The sheriff would then issue a judgement confirming whether or not they consider that the injured party was actually involved in an accident and if so whether he sustained injuries as a consequence of that accident.
As can be seen from the safeguards referred to above it is certainly not straightforward for a criminal to pursue a fraudulent personal injury claim. There are many opportunities for the third-party insurers to investigate the claim in order to detect the fraudulent activity.
The Need for a Balanced Approach
Whilst reporting on fraudulent claims the media often neglect to focus on the many thousands of genuine personal injury claims that are pursued within Scotland every year. At Jackson Boyd many of our clients have been involved in accidents that were not their fault. They have simply been attending to their day-to-day business when the negligence of another party has caused them to suffer loss and injury.
We deal with personal injury claims arising from road traffic accidents, accidents at work, slips and trips and even claims arising from illness suffered on holiday. At Jackson Boyd we have dealt with claims for individuals who have lost a limb as a result of an accident, who may have lost their job and in some case the psychological effect of an accident has even contributed to a marriage breakdown. These innocent individuals find themselves facing an uncertain future due in no part to their own actions and we are only too willing to assist them in obtaining the compensation that they deserve and that will ensure that the future for them and for their family is a little brighter.
In addition to high-value claims involving serious injuries or even loss of life we also deal with what would be considered as minor whiplash claims. Nevertheless, the clients that we act for in relation to these claims have again been involved in accidents, in which they were the innocent party. They can suffer pain and discomfort for several months. They may be absent from their work and suffer loss of earnings. They may require assistance from family members with their daily activities. The injuries may only persist for a few months but for that period they may be in constant pain and discomfort through no fault of their own. These individuals are not criminals or acting in a fraudulent manner and should not be made to feel that there is anything wrong in pursuing a claim against the responsible party. Indeed, claims of this nature have been pursued in the Scottish courts for many hundreds of years.
No Holiday for Personal Injury Claimants
There was a recent story on the ITV News relating to the increase in fraudulent claims in relation to sickness suffered during a holiday abroad. The news item showed footage of holidaymakers allegedly being induced to make claims for sickness suffered at a hotel or resort, after they return home to the UK. The segment gave statistics regarding the increase in claims of this nature and provided comments from those in the insurance industry and the tourism industry regarding the additional sums that are being paid out for these claims.
We are aware that claims of this nature have become more prevalent over the last couple of years but that is largely due to the fact that people now know that they can pursue compensation for illness suffered abroad. How many of us over the years have been on a holiday abroad and have been laid up in bed for a couple of days with a sickness or stomach bug? Most of us would simply put it down to a change in the water supply. However that was not satisfactory and therefore personal injury solicitors started to sue travel companies and hotels where it appeared more likely that an individual’s ill-health may have been due poor hygiene or sub standard cooking practices. Jackson Boyd deal with holiday claims regularly and are very mindful of the fact that many individuals travel annually on one holiday and it therefore seems somewhat unjust that an individual is deterred from making a claim for holiday sickness due simply to the fact that others may consider the claim to be fraudulent. Whilst this may have benefits for the tour operators and their insurers in reducing claims of this nature it does not bode well for improved hygiene standards within hotels or for a sickness free holiday for UK travellers.
At Jackson Boyd we support attempts to eradicate fraudulent claims but not to the detriment of those individuals who wish to pursue genuine personal injury claims for accidents that that have had a significant impact on their lives and on the lives of their family. Within the Scottish system the safeguards are already there to weed out fraudulent claims and insurers (quite correctly) will continue to challenge any cases which they consider may be fraudulent in nature. Conversely Jackson Boyd will continue to vigorously pursue personal injury claims on behalf of all our genuine clients.
It seems fitting to conclude with yet another Jerry Maguire reference. At Jackson Boyd we very rarely hear a client exclaiming “SHOW ME THE MONEY” in relation to their personal injury claim. On the contrary their comments are normally more along the lines of “I wish this accident had never happened”. The many thousands of innocent parties involved in accidents each year and who decide to pursue personal injury claims should not be stigmatised due to the criminal activities of a few and the subsequent cynicism of others.
As Jackson Boyd we are committed to acting on behalf of clients with a genuine personal injury claim and will recover the compensation that they deserve for the losses that they have suffered. If you have been involved in an accident that was not your fault or fell ill while on holiday then please get in touch with us on 0333 222 1855 or by clicking here and we will be happy to provide guidance on the prospects of pursuing a successful personal injury claim on your behalf.