Claimant lawyers need to report dodgy peers to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, urges Andrew Twambley, spokesperson for Access to Justice, arguing current legislation is enough to tackle fraud.
A lawyer friend of mine has a house in Mallorca. Lucky fellow. Last weekend he phoned me. He was furious. Sitting at a beachside café, drinking his morning espresso, he was approached by an Englishman urging him to claim for holiday sickness.
My friend was advised to lie blatantly about non-existent symptoms in order to receive a four-figure sum. He declined, but said holidaymakers and expats are regularly tapped up by touts offering big money to claim.
Worse still, there are claimant law firms in the UK that are prepared to take on these cases in order to make a fast buck.
Nobody could take issue with compensation for holidaymakers whose summer holidays have been ruined by rotten food, or dirty, germ-ridden premises. The law is designed to help these people, and rightly so.
But encouraging people like my friend to commit fraud is dangerous and despicable. Dangerous because my friend could end up in court. And despicable because genuine claimants will be treated with suspicion. The truth is that unscrupulous claims farmers and some claimant law firms are exploiting the law. Right-thinking lawyers and others with a stake in the reputation of our sector must respond.
The authorities need to clamp down, and clamp down hard, on claims farmers and law firms that operate beyond the spirit and the letter of the law, whether holiday claims, injuries at work, or road traffic accidents. But dealing with them is difficult.
Blanket bans penalise genuine claimants, and in any event many of these so-called claims farmers operate offshore and are beyond the reach of regulators.
However, where law firms are concerned, it is incumbent upon us all to work with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and eradicate malpractice in the personal injury market. First, that requires insurers and travel operators to prosecute individual fraudsters through to conviction, and for dodgy claimant lawyers to be reported to the SRA, which has the power to close them down.
We have to help our regulator by being proactive in reporting incidences of malpractice, and in return affirmative action from the SRA will make it easier for us to argue that our sector is transparent and willing to deal with, to quote US President Donald Trump, ‘the bad hombres’.
In doing so, we can show politicians – all too eager to legislate first and ask questions later – that the systems already in place to deal with malpractice are quite sufficient. They just need to be used properly.
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