31 October 2019

Do you trust insurers?

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I recently read a very interesting blog by Mike Benner, Chief Executive of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. Mike’s blog titled, The tide of public opinion is turning against insurers, addressed a recent report from research agency Consumer Intelligence, which found that consumer trust in insurance companies is falling. Apparently only 68% of people now say they trust their insurance company. For me, this does not come as a great surprise. Working as a Personal Injury Solicitor, I often find myself negotiating with insurance companies who are all desperate to keep their hands firmly in their pockets when it comes to paying compensation for perfectly entitled pursuers.

A YouGov poll has uncovered that over two-thirds of British people believe that insurers will do whatever they can to avoid paying out. This finding was perhaps more surprising to me. Why would two-thirds of us not expect our insurers to pay up in the event of a legitimate claim? After all, we all pay handsome premiums to our insurers for the privilege of driving our vehicles on the road. In any ordinary relationship when you pay for a service, you expect that once you have handed over your money, that service will be provided. But, this is not always the case with insurance contracts. The devil is always in the detail and devious insurers will, in my experience, always do what they can to (a) avoid paying out, or (b) pay out a little as possible.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that so many have a mistrust of the insurance industry. I recently read about a case from Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court which concerned a request by an insurer to invalidate a policy their customer had taken out. Their customer had been involved in a road traffic incident and the insurer was requesting that the Court make a ruling invalidating the policy because he had not mentioned a fixed penalty notice received 3 years previously when taking out the policy.

In effect, the insurers were trying to wriggle out of covering their customer's claim, leaving him personally liable for any loss sustained as a result of a collision. Now remember, this insurer quite happily accepted payment from the customer when he took out the policy, but when push comes to shove and they are called upon to uphold their side of the agreement, the insurer has attempted to throw their loyal customer under the bus.

As representatives of the insurer were making their case, the Sheriff interjected: “Are you saying you wouldn’t have insured this guy if you’d known he'd had one conviction for speeding?” The Sheriff went on “Is Premier Underwriting an insurance company which has not got a single customer or client who has a single conviction or fixed penalty for speeding? I don’t believe that and if you thought about it for a minute you wouldn’t believe it either.”

Indeed, the situation is hardly believable but when you hear stories such as this, it is perhaps no wonder you’d be hesitant to trust your insurer to look after you in the event of a road traffic collision. My question to you is this; if you wouldn’t trust your insurer to pay out in the event of a claim, why would you trust them to appoint you a lawyer if you have suffered personal injury?

Thomas Mitchell - RTALS LLP Solicitor

Thomas Mitchell - Solicitor

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