Negligence claims against personal injury firms for under-value settlements are increasing rapidly, the Gazette has been told.
Professional negligence lawyers say that firms’ reliance on under-qualified staff, a lack of face-to-face contact with clients and failure to understand medical reports are all factors in the trend.
Last month, Lancashire firm Mulderrigs secured almost double the original settlement for a client paralysed after an accident. Amanda Glover, associate director at Surrey firm BakerLaw, said she had won a case worth £700,000 for one client who had originally been awarded £16,000.
Mark Hambleton, associate at national firm Withy King, said one recent personal injury claim was worth nine times the original £10,000 settlement agreed by another firm. He added that most claims had come from clients represented by panel firms of solicitors in a different part of the country.
Veronica Howley, principal at north-west firm Lees Solicitors, said some personal injury claims were being settled at ‘breathtaking pace’, missing pertinent factors.
‘My impression, from the cases we have dealt with and conversations with insurers, is that the proliferation of claims lawyers where there are just one or two partners and a bank of paralegals has created a cycle of settling claims rather more quickly than is wise, and not meeting the client face to face.’
Andrew Morgan, a partner at City firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, told the Gazette that a failure to read or comprehend medical reports could lead to early exits and under-settlement. This problem, he added, would be exacerbated when personal injury firms face financial pressures as a result of the Jackson reforms.