Anyone who has ever had their dinner interrupted by a telephone call about how much compensation they could claim for their 'accident' is right to be frustrated, particularly when they know they are not entitled to any.
These phone calls come from claims management companies, or 'CMCs', which have come under increasing scrutiny as a result of the payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal. The calls are not, as is sometimes mistakenly believed, from lawyers themselves. Lawyers are bound by strict rules preventing them from cold calling and texting. CMCs' practices are not as effectively regulated and a general lack of transparency makes it hard for the client to know who exactly is dealing with his case. When an injured person talks to CMC about an injury, his case is not being considered by a legal professional with years of training and experience, but rather a middle man whose skills lie in marketing.
From what I've read, consumers are starting to realise that there is no benefit to using a CMC. Injured people are best advised to go straight to an accredited lawyer and cut out the go-between. Some people can, however, find the prospect of approaching a lawyer directly quite daunting, but none of the lawyers I work with are unapproachable at all. They really care about the injured people they look after.
I'll explain. CMCs use the power of marketing to source potential claimants, most recognisably through many of the 'no-win no-fee' advertisements scattered across the daytime television schedules. A claimant is then introduced by the CMC to a lawyer in exchange for a fee, which legal firms pay as an alternative to advertising. But there's no need for claimants to go through a middle man.
It is fair to say that the stakes are a lot higher for an injured person than someone who has been mis-sold PPI. An injured person's damages may have to support him for a long time during recovery, pay for treatment to ensure that recovery, or to support the family while life gets back on track. I'm startled that the well-being of injured people could be in the hands of marketing men. The rules for lawyers are robust and strictly enforced, as they should be for anybody dealing with an injured person's case, at any stage of the process. It is time the middle men were subject to the same standards of practice and regulation.
An injured person, who might be vulnerable and facing financial difficulties because of another person's negligence, will be looking for somewhere to turn. Most injured people are one-time users of the system, and likely to know very little about how it all works - why would they? Nobody anticipates an injury, so they don't need to know. Advertising certainly has a place, pointing claimants to where they can seek help. But advertising rarely makes it clear what the company is, in what circumstances a claim for compensation can be made, or how the system works. For the full picture, the injured person should go direct to a lawyer.
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