Child abuse survivors decry tactics of 'velociraptor' insurance lawyers

Child on a swing

Non-recent child abuse survivors say they have faced ‘absolutely malevolent’ litigation strategies from insurer lawyers when attempting to put in claims.

Recent inquiries by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse have shed some light on how abuses that occurred across institutions, have historically been handled by insurers and other authorities.

One survivor has described insurer-side law firms as “velociraptor lawyers”.

Speaking about making a claim, the survivor told Post: “It is an adversarial system in a situation in which what is required is a healing response. A response that helps to re-build a life, helps to heal, helps to calm an ugly situation. Instead, we find ourselves in a situation which is adversarial, raises anxiety, it can be profoundly ugly.

“I think there is more to come out. Survivors have almost been brought to suicide as a result of how this current set up works. It is as serious as that.

“The litigation strategies are absolutely malevolent. It is absolutely appalling.

“The way it works is we really have no choice. You are held against the wall with a loaded gun against your head. And all the cards are stacked in the lawyer acting for the insurer, all heavily decked against you, because they know you cannot take these cases to court. It is almost impossible. In order to take a case to court, a litigation case, you need a minimum of £250,000 to £300,000. You carry all the liability. If you lose, you pay every cost.”

IICSA is scheduled to publish a report later this year, which is expected to affect how CSA claims are handled.

Several options could be explored, including possible redress schemes, such as the one announced by Manchester City FC yesterday for survivors of abuse by former coach Barry Bennell.

In response to the survivor’s comments, a spokesperson for the Abuse Claims Practice & Procedure Sector Focus Team, at the Forum of Insurance Lawyers said: “In England and Wales there is one civil justice system for all personal injury claims from the most straightforward trips, to the most catastrophic clinical accident.  Claims for compensation for non-recent abuse currently fall to be determined via this process too. The system has an evolving set of pre-action protocols, the purpose of which is to settle cases without the need to go to court.  

“The Foil Abuse Claims Practice and Procedure Strategic Focus Team have continued the work undertaken by the previous Historic Abuse Litigation Forum to agree with all relevant parties including claimant lawyers and insurers a pre-action protocol for non-recent abuse claims which will ensure quick, effective and reciprocal disclosure of information by both claimants and cefendants with the aim of early resolution whenever possible. The drafts are currently with the Civil Procedure Rules Committee for consideration and we would hope that this may lead to some changes in the management of such claims within the civil system.

“In Foil’s experience, for the vast majority of insured defendants the key aim is to resolve claims quickly. Defendants, insurers and those representing them are mindful of the victims/survivors at the centre of these claims and the potential outcomes for them. Investigations can however be complex and issues are not always straightforward. The approach taken by all involved can make a significant difference to the speed of resolution and the outcome reached. 

“There is an increasing focus on voluntary and state orchestrated redress schemes as an alternative to using the current system. Focus on a pre-action protocol for the purpose of civil claims alongside appropriate redress schemes (as seen today by the scheme announced by Manchester City) should alleviate some of the challenges which arise for all parties in providing compensation and redress in cases where there has been childhood sexual abuse.”

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