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7 April 2014 | Comment | Article by Mark Harvey

Third party assistance: an offer too good to refuse?

I recently attended both the Motor Claims 2014 and Modern Claims Conferences in London and the issues of pre-med offers and third party assistance were prominently discussed.

In the former conference, I had what you might call a ring side seat when John Spencer, Vice-president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers squared up against an ABI representative concerning “pre-med” offers. Since then, Mr Spencer has published an article entitled “‘Pre-medical offers result in injustices” in the Law Gazette dated 11 March 2014.

Clearly, Mr Spencer views pre-med offers with a great deal of sceptism and fails to see how they can adequately compensate a claimant when a medical report has not been obtained. Having worked in both the insurance and legal sectors, and tendered such offers in my insurance incarnation, I think I am well placed to give an opinion on the matter.

Certainly, I would agree to an extent that some types of injury are precluded from consideration for “pre med” offer status. However, the majority of minor soft tissue injury claims that are presented on a daily basis can be settled by such means with the minimum of fuss and without the additional middle man costs that unnecessarily inflate claims, to the benefit of both defendant and claimant alike.

When I worked in the insurance sector, and indeed I know this to be the case today, there was a tangible willingness to compensate the claimant at the level of damages to which they would be entitled. What frustrates insurers, and no doubt this would equally infuriate their injured clients, were the information public knowledge, are the excessive costs levied by claimant solicitors. These costs very often dwarf the compensation received by their clients.

Whilst I am not arguing that insurance companies are the claimant’s new best friend, (they are after all businesses), pre-med offers/third party assistance should not in my opinion, be viewed as cynically. It is clear that when operated appropriately and correctly, pre-med offers are there for the benefit of both claimant and insurance company alike.

I also disagree with Mr Spencer’s view that it’s disingenuous for insurers to contend that they’re helping people – ‘holding their hands that little bit more’. Many claimants contacted at an early stage post accident and who are offered and accept third party assistance, would no doubt disagree with Mr Spencer too. Such offers would include the offer of repairs to their vehicle without paying an excess, replacement transport and rehabilitation with perhaps a “pre-med” offer if appropriate. In the process, by accepting such assistance, excessive claims from credit hire firms, for example are also prevented.

Third party assistance then, represents a “one stop shop”, which will help the claimant get back to normal after being inconvenienced in an accident. The whole ethos of such a practice, I would argue, is concurrent with the Competition Commission’s recent findings that the existing complex claims procedure was identified as a major cause of all that is wrong with the UK motor insurance sector.

As to whether such pre-med offers encourage fraudulent claims and the compensation climate in general, I’m of the opinion that this culture has become increasingly entrenched over the last 20 years, so I fail to see how such practices do indeed perpetuate this culture. I view pre-med offers in this context as damage limitation.

I appreciate that this view is divisive and not one shared by the MOJ nor indeed some insurers. However, when you are dealing with whiplash injuries which are easy to fake and impossible to diagnose with certainty, then unmeritorious claims will be submitted regardless with no-one any the wiser! What is the alternative to pre-med offers in such a scenario? For such claimants to obtain representation, be examined, inevitably diagnosed with the same whiplash injury and the overall cost of the claim to increase exponentially? The only winners in such a scenario are the claimant solicitors, who have managed to unnecessarily protract the claim and billed for their time accordingly.

This is clearly an area where reform is inevitable, raised and criticised as it was in the MOJ’s report on reducing the number and cost of whiplash claims. I am of the view, and have seen firsthand, the benefit to claimants of such pre-med offers/third party assistance in appropriate cases and feel an outright ban on such practices would be counter-productive to the claims process and the drive to curb claims spend which leads to increased premiums.

Author bio

Mark Harvey


Mark Harvey is a Partner in the claimant division. He has obtained compensation for many individual victims of common but defective consumer products as well as victims of accidents overseas and arising out of travel generally.

Mark is the court appointed lead solicitor coordinating over 1,000 claimants in a group litigation order (GLO) arising out of the recall and health alert relating to the French manufacturer’s PIP silicone breast implants.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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