Background Briefing: Recently Charlie Weston, Irish Independent Personal Finance Editor, wrote this article on the new Injuries Board Book of Quantum (which sets out estimates of bodily injury compensation claims amounts based on historical data averages). He described it as a ‘chancer’s charter’ whilst lambasting ‘dodgy lawyers’ as a primary cause of rising motor insurance premiums.
Brendan Quinn, Principal of this law firm, has penned this response to Charlie Weston (as yet unpublished in the Indo so we have published it here for all to see and share!).
Mr. Charlie Weston,
The Irish Independent,
27-32 Talbot Street,
Date: 14th October 2016.
Our Ref: BQ/CM
Re: Irish Independent – Thursday 6th October 2016.
I refer to your articles concerning the Publication of the Updated Book of Quantum by the Injuries Board which appeared in last Thursday’s Irish Independent 6th October 2016).
I am a solicitor since 1995 and have practised in the area of Personal Injuries Litigation for most of that time on the Defence side initially and subsequently on the Plaintiff’s side. I have an established practice in Ballyfermot, Dublin 10 since 1998 and as a consequence, I am very familiar with every aspect of Personal Injuries Litigation.
I was appalled at the level of ignorance displayed in your article and in particular your reference to ‘dodgy lawyers’ etc. You appear to suggest that most, if not all persons, suffering from ‘whiplash’ are ‘chancers’ and that any Solicitor/Barrister that assists these individuals in bringing a claim is ‘dodgy’.
These scurrilous assertions not only display an appalling lack of knowledge on your part, but also pander to the lazy, uneducated ‘insurance-led’ view that all claimants and their Solicitors/Barristers are frauds.
I suggest you and your newspaper consider the following:
On any objective analysis of the facts there has not been a 70% increase in the value and number of claims in recent years. There has been a 70% increase in the insurance premiums over the past two years. Why?
There has not been a 70% increase in legal costs in recent years. In fact legal costs have decreased substantially in recent years.
There are new capital requirement regulations which necessitate the insurance companies holding more money on deposit to ensure their viability. (If these rules had been in place, then Quinn Insurance may not have collapsed). Have these regulations restricted the insurance companies investment potential?
The investments made by the insurance companies in recent years appear to have been bad investments. Undoubtedly, this is likely to have had a substantial bearing on profitability as traditionally, investments account for a larger proportion of insurance companies profits.
Since the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board in 2004, insurance costs have come down by approximately 40% up until 2011/2012. During this period did the insurance companies act recklessly? For example did one or more companies underprice premiums in order to grab market share? (See the Regulator’s recent comments before the PAC.)
Certain one-off events have occurred in recent years largely due to a failure to regulate the industry properly, for example the collapse of Setanta Insurance Company and Quinn Insurance. It is inherently stupid that other insurance companies (through the MIBI) are required to bail out the losses of a failed insurer and this requires to be rectified. However, it should be noted that these same insurance companies signed up to the MIBI Agreement and their liability in this regard stems from that contract i.e. they knew or ought to have known that such a liability could arise.
Insurance Companies require claims ….. If there were no claims, there would be no requirement for insurance and where premiums are higher, then profits are higher for insurance companies. This is an established fact, but your Newspaper has never examined this issue in any detail whatsoever.
It seems quite extraordinary that the insurance buyer in Ireland is required to pay a levy in respect of Quinn Insurances losses which occurred not only in Ireland but also in England and not only in respect of motor claims
Your newspaper articles suggest that the only “dodgy” participants in this business are claimants and their “lawyers”. You may be interested to read the couple of examples I set out below:
Taking candy from a baby
In December 2013, a prominent insurance company, publicly listed as a PLC in a number of countries, settled two minor (i.e. persons under 18) claims some weeks following a serious road traffic accident by paying to their parents sums of money in the approximate amounts of €15,000 each without medical reports and without having the matters ruled before a Judge of the Circuit Court.
This latter requirement is mandatory in all cases where the injured person is under the age of 18 years. Both these infant Plaintiffs, upon reaching their majority are perfectly entitled to proceed against the insurance company for proper and adequate compensation and as such the insurance company has not only acted in breach of Civil Law, but is also in breach of the Capital Reserves Regulations as these claims are no doubt classified as ‘settled’ and no longer on the books of the insurance company.
In addition, I have no doubt whatsoever that the two sums of €15,000 will not be enjoyed by the claimants in this case as the money will be long since spent by their parents! Sadly, this is not an isolated case.
Quinn Insurance led the market by introducing ‘Doorstep Settlements’ whereby, if a person has an accident on a Friday, a representative from Quinn Insurance appeared on their doorstep on Monday morning brandishing a cheque book and buying off the claim for as little as possible without the benefit of medical advice and/or legal advice.
Outright lies were regularly told to claimants if they consulted solicitors etc. such as they would not receive any compensation for three years or more and that Quinn Insurance would strenuously defend such claims. i.e. bullying people into accepting very small amounts without the benefit of advice from a doctor and/or a solicitor.
For certain insurance companies now, this practice is a regular occurrence and insurance companies have little or no interest in the welfare of claimants and whether they are injured or not is of little or no concern to them. Their bottom line is they want claims settled as quickly as possible preferably without legal advice thereby reducing substantially the amount of compensation paid and in addition obtaining the added benefit of not having to comply with Capital Reserves Regulations.
I have never encountered a solicitor or barrister who wanted to be associated in any way with any fraudulent claim in my twenty odd years of practice and your implied suggestion that both professions are littered with ‘dodgy’ practitioners is completely inaccurate, but it does serve to pander to a popular misconception amongst members of the public which, I suppose sells newspapers.
Where are all these fraudulent claimants? And if they exist, why haven’t they been prosecuted? I refer you to the provisions of the Courts & Civil Liability Act 2004, Sections 25 and 26 which clearly provide for serious penalties for fraudulent and exaggerated claims.
The Insurance Industry blames everyone for their woes except themselves. Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember the clamour for the abolition of juries in personal injury actions – they got that. Then they wanted the establishment of the PIAB – they got that as well. However, it now seems this institution is not acting in their sole interest and as a consequence they appear to be regretting its creation in the first instance.
The Insurance Industry engaged in reckless internecine price wars for years and made bad investments and now they are beating the same old drum – blame the legal profession. This comes as no surprise to me, but I am surprised that you and your newspaper appear to accept and promote their views without proper scrutiny.
May I suggest you utilise your resources and intelligence and ponder the few simple issues I have raised in this letter and explore the possibility that the answers to the insurance industry’s difficulties lie, not in the popular fiction of the ‘dodgy claimant’ and his ‘dodgy lawyer’ but with the very clever and very polished and very insidious insurance industry itself.
— Principal & Founder
Brendan Quinn is the principal solicitor of Quinn Solicitors. A graduate of UCD Brendan worked in the Chief State Solicitors Office in Dublin Castle for a number of years before establishing the firm. Brendan is responsible for all litigation matters.