Consultation response. Claims management regulation

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1 Consultation response Claims management regulation

2 1 1 Introduction The Legal Ombudsman is a new organisation set up to resolve complaints about lawyers. The Legal Ombudsman s vision is that: everyone can access legal services in which they can have confidence. We are an independent ombudsman scheme that resolves complaints about lawyers in a fair and effective way. Our role is an important part of the justice system, and we hope that what we learn from complaints will help enable people to access justice with more confidence. In this paper we are pleased to present some observations to you from our casework. We hope they may add to the evidence you are collecting as part of your consultation on amending the conduct of authorised persons rule We also hope it may be useful for your upcoming review of claims management regulation. 2 Overlaps between claims management companies and lawyers Since we opened in October 2010, we have received a small number of enquiries from consumers that we have been unable to take further, as they relate to service provided by a claims managing company rather than by a lawyer. As we are at early stages in our operation we are not able to provide exact figures, but we will be able to provide these in future. What we do know is that in the eyes of the consumer there is an overlap between claims management companies and lawyers, and we believe these enquiries are a symptom of this. We think that consumers are confused about the roles of claims management companies versus law firms, and particularly where they should go for redress should they experience poor service. We hope that in future there will be opportunities to consider how this can be joined up for the benefit of consumers.

3 2 3 Our observations Of the service complaints that we have taken on, around 9% relate to personal injury, which we understand to be the largest area where claims management companies operate. Of these personal injury complaints, a small number relate to problems in the relationship between a solicitor and a claims management company. We have observed the following from the small number of cases we have investigated so far: we have not received any complaints where a consumer has told us they have been offered financial or other benefits in order to make a personal injury claim, although it is unlikely that consumers would complain about this to us; we have received complaints about claims management companies passing on insufficient information about claims to solicitors firms causing a delay in taking forward cases; we have received complaints about claims management companies from consumers who were concerned that the company was passing on personal details to solicitors firms without permission; and we have received complaints about consumers feeling concerned at being contacted many times by solicitors following referrals from claims management companies. Below are some example case narratives: Case 1 Mr Y was involved in a road traffic accident. The other party admitted liability and their insurance company offered a sum of money as compensation plus the cost of treatment. On receipt of the offer he took advice from a claims management company who assured him that he would be entitled to more compensation than that which was offered. His details were then passed to a solicitors firm, who wrote to him. Mr Y decided to instruct them to take his claim further. A few weeks later, the solicitor wrote to Mr Y explaining that they would not be taking the claim any further as they had now seen

4 3 the medical report (compiled before they were instructed) and on considering this and the compensation offered, they felt that the original offer from the insurance company was reasonable. They explained that they had not been made aware prior to accepting the instruction that a medical report had already been completed. This had a significant effect on Mr Y, as when he went back to the insurance company he found that they had withdrawn their offer following the involvement of the solicitors firm. He also lost the chance to go elsewhere so was denied any compensation.. Mr Y was particularly unhappy that the solicitors firm approached the insurance company for expenses relating to work carried out on his personal injury claim, and that these fees were paid. He felt that the firm undertook no work as they advised that they could not take his claim any further. Case 2 Mr R received correspondence from a solicitor trying to act for him in relation to an accident they said he had. Mr R suspects that the firm got his details via a claims management company that he used previously. He thinks this company might have sold his details to the solicitor. Mr R has not consented to any solicitor acting for him, and has no knowledge of having an accident at the time they mentioned. Case 3 Mr W had an accident at work and made enquiries concerning making a claim with a claims management company. Mr W then experienced phone calls twice a day, men sitting outside his house, and bundles of papers stuffed through the letterbox. Some of the paperwork sent to him was from a solicitors firm. Mr W described it to us and we thought the paperwork sounded like a Conditional Fee Agreement with distance selling regulations cancellation terms. Mr W said that he never asked for this information and was concerned that he might get charged by the solicitors firm.

5 4 4 Closing remarks In summary, we have presented some information from our case load which shows the complaints we are receiving that relate to problems in the relationship between solicitors firms and claims management companies We have also mentioned the overlap in the roles of claims management companies and law firms in the eyes of consumers. We hope that in the coming months we will be able to discuss with you how to ensure consumer information and complaints handling is more joined up. In future, we will be building up more data in these areas and will be happy to share this with you. We would also be happy to discuss any aspect of our response with you in further detail. Please contact: February 2011

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