Elvis is alive and well, living on the Moon. The Earth is flat after all. Botham hits six sixes in the first over on his Test comeback. These statements have more likelihood of proving to be correct than the spin promoted by the ABI following its commissioning of a study of the outcomes for legally represented and unrepresented claimants in personal injury compensation (News analysis, 13 July).
On first reading, the summary report seems credible, yet upon further analysis the methodology is questionable, resulting in conclusions that are at best possibly misguided and at worst completely irresponsible.
The large dataset is to be commended, but why couldn't the data be cleaned to provide a typical mixture of motor, EL and PL claims in approximate proportions to reality?
Limiting the analysis to compensation payments between £1,000 and £25,000 is well understood, bearing in mind the ABI's proposals for raising the fast-track limits. However, this restriction fundamentally ignores those claims that fall outside of these parameters. It is these claims that should be included, as an inclusive basis analysis would show the more likely outcome of represented claims achieving greater compensation for the claimant than unrepresented claims.
For example, a common source of claims to a lawyer is those that have been attempted unsuccessfully by a claimant direct with an insurer. The lawyer's skill and knowledge enables that claim to then be pursued successfully. This is particularly so on small-value claims that may initially be viewed as falling under the £1,000 threshold.
Equally, lawyers are able to achieve greater settlements of more than £25,000 where the same case unrepresented would fall below £25,000, the limit unilaterally adopted by the research. These omissions could make such a significant difference as to flaw any findings.
But maybe the findings are correct. Let's just review the conclusions. Insurers pay more compensation to unrepresented claimants. Why would they pay more when they have no pressure to do so? Because the employer wants to look after his employee? Right, and the employer is also happy to pay more for his EL insurance.
Ok. Let's again give them the benefit of the doubt. So, what does the insurer do when faced with represented claimants? He offers less compensation, knowing that such intransigence fuels the legal costs and prolongs the case. Why not offer the so-called same (higher) amount that would be offered to unrepresented claimants? More doubts?
The only rational conclusion is that the interpretation is flawed by the selective analysis. In almost all ways of life, you get what you pay for, and engaging experts and professionals is almost always likely to produce better outcomes than do-it-yourself efforts.
Using lawyers is no different. Joe Public encounters a non-fault injury once in his lifetime on average. How can he possibly know how to exercise his full rights compared to a lawyer who handles such cases every working day. To suggest otherwise defies belief.
The ABI may owe a duty to its members, but its members owe a duty to their customers, most of whom are indirectly the claimants. It should be ashamed of not only trying to short-change those people who deserve the compensation, but of also then dressing it up as doing them a favour.
Perhaps if the full, detailed report could be made available, then these concerns could be dispelled. If not, if you don't play with a straight bat, then it's just a question of time before you are caught out.