Friday, December 10, 2010

Winters icy grip can be good news for injury lawyers

Every year I tend to comment on how the winter months are very good for the personal injury business.

It is for example entirely predictable that the bad weather will lead to a rise in accidents and injuries suffered on the highway. Commuting to and from work in the dark leads to a rise in car accidents. Bad weather, particularly snow and ice, can open up a rich seam of accidents occurring on hazardous pathways and roads.

This year has been so far particularly busy given the deep freeze that we have been suffering with across the UK during the last 14 days. My firm has taken on no less than 20 ice slipping cases during the last week or so. These are nearly all cases involving Occupiers Liability or accidents in / around business premises rather than highway incidents where council liability tends to be a major hurdle.

We no longer take on any cases against local authorities for failure to grit public roads and pavements. They are almost certainly doomed to failure given the wide remit offered by the Highways Act 1980. Specifically this phrase can do serious damage to a prospective claim:

In particular, a highway authority is under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.

Its not even Christmas yet so this season could be a bumper one for hungry lawyers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MOJ RTA Claims Portal Update

Its been a while since I last mused on the subject of the MOJ portal.

For the uninitiated this is the new IT claims database that records all new and active RTA personal injury claims valued at £10k and under. Solicitors must intimate all new claims to insurers via the portal and all activity (on cases where liability is not an issue) must be dealt with via the portal based automated system.

We are now more than 6 months in and I have to say that at long last the system is working pretty well. The IT is still abysmal with the worst looking control panel you have ever seen. However once you get over the glitchy-ness and once you get to know who the bad boys are in the insurer world (those muppets who simply have no idea how to deal with this new system and slow track everything to bounce the claims out of MOJ track) the system really does work.

Why..? Well here are some interesting observations:

1. Claims are settling much much quicker
2. Insurers are less inclined to argue the toss over dross (apart from the aforementioned bad boys)
3. Insurers are mostly keeping to the payment arrangements and forking out the £400 within days of admitting liability
4. Most solicitor firms - having gotten over the de-skilling issue - now tend to believe that the system can save them as well as earn them money.
5. Most clients are happy that the above plus points deliver quicker cleaner results and ultimately they get the redress they need in a timely fashion

Still early days but LegalSpy really is a convert. The days of making big bucks in the RTA word are long gone - but the industry is still very much alive. We just work less at the bottom end of the market and more at the top end. Getting the balance right is where your business fail or prosper.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Best strap line ever 

Seen on the side of a plumbers van in Harrogate:

Dont sleep with a drip....
when you can have me!

Can you imagine being able to advertise like that for legal services..??!!

"We put the whip into whiplash claims"    think of the fun you could have..!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sweet September - Oh how I love thee...!

September really is a fantastic month for personal injury business.

The season starts tomorrow with all the kids back to school, holidays a distant memory and people focusing on the important things in life ie: compensation and redress.

Aside form the immediacy of the claims that arise from road accidents where generally you find people signing up with lawyers pretty quickly, many other areas of the personal injury market can be subject to seasonal trends.

If for example you are looking to make a claim for a work related injury, the case is of course made against the employer so if you are going to ruffle feathers you might want to get your holiday out of the way first. If you have a medical negligence case, you may prefer to get your timing right and get the kids to school before launching into what could be a very strenuous and emotive exercise.

In many other scenarios people tend to park their problems during the summer months.

Divorce is a classic cyclical area of law that suddenly bursts into life post Christmas and post summer holiday season.

Now I know I shouldnt rub my hands with glee at the misery people endure prior to asking for help, thats really not it. We are ostensibly in the misery business - accept this and dont pretend otherwise.

The fact is that most law firms that are not on the Trade Union or insurer gravy trains have good periods and bad periods during the year. We are about to enter a good spell and I for one am ready to make hay.

Friday, June 25, 2010

MOJ Portal Misery

This is getting silly now

This week we have unearthed the following gremlins and black holes within the MOJ Portal:

There is NO mechanism within the portal process to deal with Pre Medical offers - no one thought to tell the MOJ planning team about the insurers tactic of making daft offers early on to settle claims quickly and cheaply. Such offers are outside of the overriding objective of the portal process yet the tactic is widely adopted by insurers. If your client accepts a pre-med offer the system doesnt allow you to settle formally (save sending a memo or notification). This settlement method may account for 10% of cases as insurers throw money at clients early and also offer to pay stage 1 & 2 costs to boot.

Did no one think of this..?

The 2nd major headache this week has been the constantly populating "unlocked" worklist which means that our team of registered users all receive the same items of post (notifications) through the portal. You cannot lock a case completely to a user - the system unlocks it once the other side are active and communicate with you. The MOJ team didnt think we would need complete file ownership. This makes no sense whatsoever. Its like your post room staff walking into your office and distributing the same letters to everyone at the same time leaving them to work out which item belongs to them.

Finally this weeks trauma was increased markedly by a portal helpdesk team consisting entirely of overly emotional teenage dimwits. I say emotional because generally they are by the time weve finished with them. Dont bother emailing the helpdesk - you will not get a reply. Instead if you have an MOJ Portal problem you must ring them and ask to speak to a senior member of staff. It really is the only way to get any sense out of these people.

In summary, 2 months in - its as bad as bad can be.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rapid Claims MOJ Portal Update

Allow me to continue venting my spleen regarding the shambles that is the MOJ RTA claims portal.

Now that we are finally using the damn thing we have identified the following (additional) flaws:

- The system looks like a 1980's intranet for a crap university

- There are no filters whatsoever on the data columns

- No clickable / sortable fields

- No reporting mechanisms (in other words to extract data for management information)

- Bizarre referencing with half the screen taken up with meaningless process id numbers

- No user instruction manuals (we really dont have these)

- The insurers when you speak to the claims handlers, have very little idea of what they are doing

- Insurer backlogs are increasing as a result

As if all this wasnt enough, word has it that certain insurers are going hell for eather trying to settle claims inside the first window minimising costs to £400 + vat.

More misery updates to follow no doubt

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Polish migrants in the UK

We have an interest in Polish legal matters and it would seem there is a complete lack of information for Poles who come to live and work in the UK.

I have come across a new blog which highlights the issues facing Polish migrants in the uk and also this Polish information blog it is good to see the advice gap being filled for the (unofficial total) 750,000 ex pats working in this country.

You have to work in the industry with Polish nationals to realise just how badly treated they are in this country. Whilst you can understand some of the obvious problems that would arise when being domiciled in a foreign land, in the majority of cases we find that clients are abused at work by unscrupulous bosses and then at home by dodgy landlords.

Thats 21st century Britain for you. Aint it just great...!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

MOJ RTA Process Shambles ... Part II

Charged with setting up the user account on the new RTA Portal for our firm, I was hugely excited to see a long awaited email pop up in my inbox from the IT administrators for the MOJ new scheme, Polaris UK Ltd.

My excitement was soon tempered by the fact that the email suggested I had to call them to receive my new password. I knew what this would entail - a wild goose chase and many minutes on hold waiting for a pleb to tell me they are inundated and too busy to help at this stage.

I was right.

I spent 50 minutes on hold waiting for these tossers to pull their finger out, only to then be cut off.

As if to rub my nose in it they have also decided to call the portal website

RAPID claims settlement...? I mean come on, a sense of humour is one thing but this is just taking the piss.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

HIP packs are ditched by Dave & Nick

Our wonderful new government have decided to suspend the use of Home Information Packs (HIPs) with effect from 21st May 2010.

Whilst this will please most property lawyers and conveyancers, the reality is that a mini industry has sprung up over the last 4 years employing between 5-10,000 people in the production of the much criticised packs.

The concept was smart enough, it was just the delivery and in the end a pretty poor final product that did for the HIP.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

MOJ RTA roll out Shambles

Our friends at the MOJ have completely messed up the roll out of the new RTA claims process.

11 days into the much heralded new scheme -as things currently stand - around 70% of law firms do not have a live portal user account / password. This means that 70% of firms cannot process their new cases through the MOJ database which is a fundamental part of the overall process.

Instead we are having to revert to the standard method of sending paperwork and a letter of claim to the insurers.

I could tell you the whole alleged truth about why this has happened and explain that the IT company who somehow won the tender for the project had insufficient staff, skills or budgets to ensure delivery. I could tell you that one IT technician allegedly left under a cloud and this affected the whole IT roll out (one person - imaging that, the whole project resting on the shoulders of one person). I could also say that 11 days in we have made more than a dozen phone calls - all but one ignored. The one call that was not ignored involved a member of a different but related company returning to us stalling for more time, there was no explanation about why the main IT firm were not themselves making the call.

This is truly, gobsmackingly inept.

Lawyers led by donkeys

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Election fever hits the legal world

The 2010 General Election has taken over. Its all lawyers are talking about following Cleggs demolition last week of Davo and Gordy.

Whats interesting is that a hung parliament may completely stall any anticipated legal reforms as the policy makers argue the toss and fight for every inch of turf.

Keep up to date with a the scribblings of an old pal of mine - check out the Leeds UK General Election blog. The writers are from deepest West Yorkshire and are dead hard Im telling you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Our friends at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have decided to delay the roll out of the much heralded road accident claims reforms. The implementation will commence on the 30/4.

The above site which I believe is run by the IT co-ordinators at Polaris Plus (sounds a bit like a pension plan) has a countdown clock which I find quite amusing. Like the whole world changes when the sands run dry.

My arse

There is no way on earth that either side is ready, equipped and trained up sufficiently for this process to work from the off.

It will be a long lead in in my opinion so dont pay any attention to the countdown clock. The sky is not falling in on the RTA PI world

Not just yet anyway

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Jackson Report

There really is no other subject being discussed out there in the personal injury world right now. This thing really is huge.

Ive been around a while and Ive seen many changes. Woolf and Access to Justice, the scrapping of legal aid for (non clinical) PI work, the introduction of predictable fees for RTA's etc etc. It has been a changeable and quite traumatic past decade for the industry.

But things are about to get a whole lot worse: and not just for claimant lawyers

The Jackson recommendations will have an impact far and wide in the industry and there is no escaping the game-changing impact of the report. Yes, its purely a proposal document at this stage but trust me, lots of influential people want this to come in and even a change of government will not prevent the findings being implemented.

So where are the big hits?:

1) No success fees

All non RTA cases will be worth 20-30% less in fees. Even a contingency arrangement (which most of us may drop because of the competitive nature of the industry) will not significantly reduce the loss. Once all the other income layers such as med report fee and ATE (see below) commission get stripped out - you will see a 20% drop minimum

2) Predictable fees for Non RTA cases

Profit pinched even more and with little wriggle room for litigation. If the MOJ RTA scheme goes well then you can bet this will be mirrored in non RTA claims before long. Litigation drop off almost completely for bog standard claims. Defendant lawyers have effectively shot themselves in the foot by lobbying for this.

3) No "After the Event" insurance (ATE)

To me this does make sense in some ways. The ATE cover does allow for a "Teflon" process and a risk free claim for the clients. In no other legal environment does such a soft process exist for the claimant. This should quite rightly change. There ought to be however an exception for clinical claims (below)

4) The new rules would also apply to Clinical Negligence claims

Shock horror and revulsion. They are messing with the last bastion of true access to justice by suggesting that clin neg claims can and should be subject to the same rules. What a load of cobblers. How the heck can you fund a clin neg claim without adequate resources in place not least ATE when you have the risk of a long drawn out case hinging on finite clinical points and a completely intransigent unyielding unreasonable opponent in the NHSLA?

They couldnt give two hoots about injured patients at the NHSLA and make some of the most appalling judgements on case management you have ever seen. The idea that you would be backing such claims either with Third Party funding or some other mechanism is just obscene and very far from allowing access to justice.

5) Claims Management Co's are bad boys and along with referral fees - will be banned

Unenforceable, unreasonable, unlikely to even come close to happening. The industry is too big, too sophisticated and we are too reliant upon the referral system for things ever to radically alter. To enforce this rule would mean slapping some VERY big law firms and re-drafting the mechanism for LEI referrals which make millions for the likes of Aviva and Direct Line.

I could write for hours on this stuff because it is just so big. May add more later but I will wait with baited breath for more news following the election in May.

Exciting [if somewhat scary] times.