Have you or someone you know settled a case for less than it is worth?
More and more people are contacting us to say they have settled their cases but they did not get enough. Sometimes they engaged Solicitor but mostly they settled their case directly with an Insurance Company.
They want to know if they can open their cases again. Up until last year, we would have said “absolutely not” but a lot seems to have changed in a short while. Insurance companies, in particular, are very aggressive about settling cases very early and often without legal advice. If you feel that you have settled a case for less than it was worth or your injury is now worse than you originally thought, you should read the article below written by James McSweeney on the subject.
Unsettling cases – James McSweeney
Everyone is under pressure. For years Insurance Companies have been trying to take advantage of accident victims when they are under pressure. As a Solicitor acting for accident victims for many years, James McSweeney has observed a pattern. “It’s a Christmas tradition for the Insurance Industry to try and settle cases. So much so that it’s known in the business as “Settlement Season!” says McSweeney. “Often we advise Clients that, when approached for a settlement meeting in December, it might well be best to leave it until the New Year”. It’s often the case that the financial pressure of the festive season will influence people to accept less than their cases are worth. But at least these Clients have had the benefit of proper legal advice and they make up their minds with the full knowledge of their rights and entitlements.
However, James has noticed a more worrying development over the last few years. People are being encouraged, it appears, to settle their cases for less than they are worth. “They are being persuaded not to seek legal advice”. The system that has been built up around the Injuries Board encourages this kind of behaviour. Once long standing Client of the practise recently phoned James to tell him she had a car crash and had settled directly with the Insurance Company. They had called to her door one evening! She was happy with the settlement but thought that her family Solicitor should be aware of the aggressive settlement technique used by the Claims “Consultant”. This lady was told that she didn’t need a Solicitor and that Lawyers only complicate matters. Solicitors, she was told, are only in it to ramp up legal costs.
So why do people get legal advice?
The answer is to protect themselves. Think of it as an insurance policy.. Your Solicitor stands over his or her reputation. They put their money where their mouths are and if they get it wrong and you are short changed, you are covered. If you go it alone and you get it wrong, are the PIAB (Personal Injuries Assessment Board) going to cover your? No. Are the Insurance Companies going to cover you? They will not.
The sole purpose of direct settlement is to get out cheaply and that is what the Insurance companies are doing. It appears also that the Injuries Board are allowing Insurance companies to get out cheaply as well. A recent Central Bank review confirms that 100% of people that they reviewed and who had rejected an Injuries Board assessment and went to court, did better in court. Look at that another way, what it actually says is that all Injury Board assessments are lower than what an accident victim will get in Court.
In spite of this, more and more people are representing themselves in negotiations with Insurance Companies who are saving loads of money in Compensation that should be going to accident victims.