Somewhere deep inside the corridors of power within
Government the ABI, a man sits, eyes narrowed against the glare of the single light bulb projecting a pool of fractured light onto his sparsely furnished desk. Teeth clenched, his face animated, his fingers pound the keyboard in staccato fits and starts as he translates his thoughts into ideas, fractions of strategy shaped through his boyhood reading material; the words of Sun Tzu.
With stages 1 (Laying Plans/Calculations) and 2 (Waging War/Challenge) completed he inhales deeply pausing for a moment to reflect and concentrate on his opponents, to visualise the future he intends to shape. And, shoulders dropping he presses on. In some ways he has had to accept that his work has realigned the order to Sun Tzu’s work, tactical disposition, weak points, illusion and reality are already in play the order becoming less important than the energy that has been created, the momentum of the march. With double carriage return he creates a sub-heading “Stage 3: Updated Strategy of attack” and starts to lay out methodology…
It seems that a memo has been leaked (leak or controlled disclosure?) that exposes the ABI’s potential push to drum down legal fees in RTA portal claims to the big not-so-fat figure of £150 (£350 if you accept the higher end of the figures). That’s not for a segment of the process but the whole thing from start through to finish. The amount that’s been introduced smacks of badly informed holidaymaker bartering and simply reads as game playing. I could be indignant about every argument insurers and MP’s have raised on the idea that injury claims are traded “like commodities”. The starting bid is for the supply of legal services for the claim settlement process brings it down to exactly that, no more than replicating the insurer’s business model. So, in some ways, discussion driven with the aim of demonising the claim process has become a self-fulfilling prophecy or maybe, in the eyes of the ABI, it’s always been that way. Numbers in a book rather than people injured through the negligence of others, a threat to their profitability rather than part of the risk that they have accepted through insuring the individual and their vehicle.
The opening bid is in and the horse trading on value will commence with claimant representatives starting from the other end of the scale. Those with financial responsibilities in law firms may already be doing the numbers. Like me they may dismiss the £150 as a joke, seeing it only as a way of controlling the mindset. After all, any volunteered increase on £150 could seem like a concession on the part of the insurers. They might be looking at whether, at current staffing costs, calculating the overhead, looking at volumes or many of the other *tiresome* things you have to consider when running a business. Others may be considering whether its viable to run those type of claims at all, whether they can run the risk of a process that is driven by the lowest common denominator so as to not put their professional indemnity insurance at risk (oh, the irony).
Rudimentary economics such as scale matter as much to personal injury practitioners as they do to insurers. The numbers have to stack up otherwise the process fails. Now maybe that’s the outcome of the war the ABI are waging or maybe it’s very simply one of control of the supply chain. Even its neither of these what the ABI understand that their strength is in their consolidation: as individuals fingers of the hand they are weak but joined together they become a fist and are strong. They feel strong enough to even consider making such an outrageous and offensive starting bid and the dissenters are told simply to be quiet. The end justifies the means.
Standing on the other side of the line, holding the hand of the injured individual is the claimant camp whose weakness in the face of the enemy is there for all to see. It doesn’t have one voice, one representative and its future clients don’t want to think about the possibility of being injured, it might never happen to them after all. The claimant camp is full of people who’ve taken a kicking both from within and outside. They have different solutions on how to deal with the cold and rain. The tent owners vary in size and design and they’ve all got their own view on the qualities of their particular tent and its particular benefits when compared with others. Some people are in the campsite but they ’re not committed to the need to shelter from the storm clouds – they’re relying on a puff of wind to come from the south and blow the clouds away. As the camp dwellers argue amongst themselves about who had the best idea or whose tent is going to be the future and whether it will rain or not the ABI has finished the frame of its 5* hotel and is laying down foundations for the swimming pool. The bloke who was earlier writing the report in his dingy back office has his shirt off in the sunshine and is hammering in a “no tents” sign.
Others far wiser than me suggest that law firms are their own biggest competitors within the market place; it’s not such a great leap to suggest that the non-strategy adopted by some personal injury lawyers could also be the greatest threat to their own future.
The claimant camp may have too many representative voices to be useful when a negotiaton is in hand and the Government may simply be too self-absorbed in its own agenda to hear the evidence but don’t let that stop you speaking out, speaking up and challenging. Align with others, agree to put aside differences of opinion but agree on the principles. Access to justice for future personal injury claimants is the prize.