Anti-lawyer insurer report dubbed ‘highly suspicious’

Lawyers have lashed out at research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) that says that injury claims on motor policies take 90 days longer to settle if a lawyer is consulted.

Colin Ettinger, a partner at personal injury (PI) powerhouse Irwin Mitchell, said he found the ABI’s research “highly suspicious”.

The report suggests that payouts are made more quickly if a lawyer is not involved, although the amount of damages is lower if a claim is made on an employer’s liability policy.

The research claims that when people make PI compensation claims using insurance policies, they often employ a lawyer even though it is not necessary.

The study, which looked at 93,000 claims last year for sums between £1,000 and £25,000 from six big UK insurers, says lawyers are used to represent claimants in more than three-quarters of cases.

However, Ettinger claimed the research was spurious and simply a publicity stunt to help insurance companies bump up their profit margins.

“The insurance industry is beholden to shareholders,” explained Ettinger. “If they can cut out the legal costs they’re often forced to pay in order for individuals to pursue their legitimate claims, they’ll increase their profits.

“We would like to have a chance to see the methodology and the evidence behind these statistics to ensure their credibility, as we find them highly suspicious.”

A Russell Jones & Walker partner concurred with Ettinger’s view, calling the research “utter spin”.

“This is clearly another attempt by the insurers to add to their coffers,” said the partner. “Without lawyers representing clients, as the ABI’s research itself shows, claimants get less of a payout, which must show that legal representation is imperative.”

Stephen Haddrill, the ABI’s director general, said: “Our research shows that genuine claimants will benefit from a simpler, speedier system that minimises legal wrangling.”

Two years ago the ABI called for a faster and cheaper method of dealing with PI claims. It argued that an arbitration system should be established for claims worth up to £25,000, and the ABI itself should have the power to decide all claims within six months, with courts used only as a last resort.