Insurance companies are targeting victims

Jody Cantillon questions continuing claims by insurance companies that their profits are being hit by fake and exaggerated claims and asks if they have a different agenda.

Insurance companies are targeting victims

Jody Cantillon questions continuing claims by insurance companies that their profits are being hit by fake and exaggerated claims and asks if they have a different agenda.

A day does not seem to go by now where there is not some article in some paper about the compo culture.

There seems to be a vendetta against personal injuries litigation. I respectfully suggest that the focus of this vendetta is misdirected.

Focus needs to shift from attacking victims and shifted onto the negligent driver or occupier, etc, who caused the injuries.

There clearly is extensive lobbying by the insurance industry in relation to this matter. The insurers have done great public relations work in painting themselves as the victims here.

What about the injured party? The real victim. They should be the focus, not the profits of the insurance companies. The victim plays no role whatsoever in these debates.

How many victims have been consulted to see whether or not the compensation which they have received, either through the Injuries Board or the courts, was adequate? Who is advocating for the victims?

I have seen, first hand, that such propaganda campaigns are putting off genuine people who have suffered injuries, through no fault of their own and a result of the negligence of others, from bringing proceedings.

This is entirely unfair. Reference to fake accident claims and the insurers advertisements with criminals in neck collars is adversely affecting these genuine victims from pursuing their rights.

We often see in the news dramatic headlines which seem to indicate that a large sum of money is being awarded for what, as depicted in the headline, seems like a minor incident.

Firstly, no one person or injury is the same. The impact that a back injury might have on a manual labourer will be different to the impact such an injury might have on somebody who works in an office.

Secondly, the figure reported in the headline usually reflects the sums received for pain and suffering (known as general damages) together with the sums received for out of pocket expenses and loss of earnings (known as special damages).

Usually, the sums recovered for special damages far exceeds the sum recovered for general damages.

If, for example, the top violinist in the world is in a car accident and breaks their wrist, they may be out of work, or may never be able to play the violin again.

They are rightly entitled to claim for their loss of earnings, as they have been injured as a result of another’s negligence.

The figure they then receive for the loss of earnings will be greatly impacted by whether they earned €100 per night or €10,000 per night.

Further, where someone suffers the most significant injuries, such as a quadriplegia, for example, it is important to note that usually, the figure quoted in the news reports includes the cost of care, including nursing care, which is sometimes required 24 hours a day, seven days a week, far into the


Nursing care for the most catastrophically injured can amount to €350,000 per annum.

Capitalised over a lifetime, this runs into a multimillion award.

Of course it is huge but usually works out at less than what it would cost if the person was maintained in the intensive care unit of a hospital at the State’s expense.

Why should the taxpayer, in any event, have to pick up the tab for another’s carelessness?

When one reads of a “cap on the amount of compensation awarded”, it is evidence, to me at least, that the focus here is all wrong.

Why, when someone suffers an injury, because of someone else negligence, should they not be fully compensated?

The cap is beneficial to the insurance company, not to the injured party, the victim.

This would be grossly unfair.

Recently, the financial results for a major insurer were released. The company was very profitable.

The insurance firm then released a statement alleging that the profits were down as a result of the volume of claims and cost associated with such claims.

I would suggest that if this insurer wanted to be more profitable, it should be more stringent with their policyholders and ensure that they are not being negligent.

To some extent, their complaints are akin to a health insurer complaining that people are getting sick.

Recently, a spokesman for the Alliance for Insurance Reform stated that one of the reasons it is being brought back into operation is because of concerns that a minority of lawyers are promoting spurious claims. Where is the evidence for this?

Another common weapon used by the insurance lobby is the claim of exaggerated claims.

There are indeed exaggerated claims.

There are now severe penalties for those who lie in Court.

Section 26 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 essentially provides that if a plaintiff gives evidence

that is false or misleading (which would include exaggerating the extent of one’s injuries) and he/she knows it to be false or misleading, then the court can dismiss the plaintiff’s case.

It is important to note that a dismissal does not just mean that the plaintiff just goes home and is not compensated. It can also mean that the plaintiff is liable for the legal costs of the defendants.

These legal provisions are working and these cases being thrown out.

These cases are sensationalised and rightly attract media attention.

It would be wrong to infer that the existence of these few cases paints the entire picture.

This absence of balance then feeds the “compo culture”.

I, of course, do not begrudge insurance companies their entitlement to earn profits.

However, if they want to leave the most vulnerable under compensated then I say this is not fair.

More coverage needs to be given to the genuine cases where victims are being compensated for the faults of another.

It is regrettable that the voice that is setting the agenda in this debate is the wrongdoer.

We need to be vigilant as to who we are listening to and note that their agenda may not be for the common good.

Reasons why insurance companies may not be profitable in any particular year are multifactorial.

There may be poor investments made, there may be economic crashes and not all is explicable by fraudulent claims, as is suggested.

Jody Cantillon is a partner in the litigation department of Cantillons Solicitors.

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