I can't help agreeing with Tom Jones (Comment, 19 April) that there are some in the insurance market who could do more to monitor the performance of solicitors and the service they give to claimants.
However, not all insurers or solicitors should be tarred with the same brush. At DAS we do indeed check success rates, compensation amounts and client satisfaction. We pay more than just lip service to this. It is a cornerstone of custom and practice that binds legal firms into well-monitored LEI panels.
The bottom line is that performance carries a cost consideration on all sides: the underwriter pays for lost cases, panel firms stand to lose a regular supply of work, and liability insurers can face unpredictable legal costs.
Our strict service standard schedules are supported by intensive audits of all aspects of performance, and then we double-check with claimants.
Response levels to customer surveys produced an overall satisfaction score of 84% for our panel solicitors in 2006. Analysis of all these performance indicators, from audits and surveys, feeds back into our work to continually improve satisfaction levels. These have in fact risen consistently, year on year.
Most difficulties arise with cases brought to us by non-panel solicitors and clients who naïvely exercise their right to select their own solicitor. These lawyers are the ones who tend to charge too much, for too little, offer unrealistic prospects of success, and rarely have their clients' interests at heart.
The use of solicitor panels significantly improves the quality of client service and is a strong argument in favour of such panels.
There is no auctioning of cases and allocation of work means that there is no cherry picking of the more lucrative cases by the panel. The Compensation Act, now law, was introduced precisely because of unscrupulous selling in the personal injury market.
As a final point in defence of all insurers, unlike solicitors we are FSA regulated and therefore have a responsibility to treat customers fairly.
Kathryn Mortimer, Head of legal services, DAS Legal Expenses