The charity is worried victims are not getting advice first
Insurers are trying to force drivers to settle claims just hours after accidents, says a road safety charity.
Brake is concerned that people are being encouraged to take a pay-out before getting legal or medical advice.
Solicitor groups have called for tighter rules governing how companies treat so-called "third parties".
But the insurance industry says such claimants should get compensation quickly without having to resort to lengthy and costly legal processes.
We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. This debate is now closed.
MOST RECENT COMMENTS
Why not agree a process that excludes claim farmers and insurers, agrees timescales for compensation and a process that can be followed easily and clearly by anyone. By necessity this would have to be include independent medical opinion of injury and be overseen by the judiciary but only to ensure the process is followed. Sadly, the current system is being abused and no one party is more or less to blame than the other
Steve A, Gillingham
A friend was hit by a drunk driver who was being followed by the police at the time. He spent several days in hospital and weeks recovering at home. The third party insurer starved him into accepting £500 for his car and £500 damages - take our offer now or we will wait on court proceeding in 18 months time!
W Stevens, Stirling
I did the same role as Tommy Scott and eventually handed in my notice a few months ago. What Tommy says is 100% fact and I have had to go to hospitals/houses and settle. I do have to add though that solicitors can overcharge and implement delaying tactics, so insurers being able to settle directly can be rewarding for both parties. Insurers are not the ambulance-chasers, that is the role of solicitors and accident management companies. However I do not believe in bullying tactics or "forcing" people to settle. It should be more regulated.
Lucy Jackman, Glasgow
I work for the company mentioned in the report and have done for some time. I have worked in the insurance industry for almost 20 years. On joining Quinn I felt their approach to settling claims direct with third parties was refreshingly pro-active. I have no issues with offering genuine settlements to injured parties to compensate for their losses and would never offer less than the person was entitled to or would get if they instructed legal representation. I have never pressured anyone into settling their claim with me direct, and have never received any complaints about the way Quinn go about their business. In fact, the people I deal with are often relieved and grateful that we have been pro-active and prompt in contacting them.
The only people who stand to lose in these situations are firms of solicitors and accident management companies. Early settlement saves money in the long run and these savings are passed on to customers.
Teri Rowlands, Essex
I work for Quinn and have never pressured anyone. I give them the option to settle direct without the need to go through a long drawn-out process. The choice is entirely theirs.
The simple solution to this issue is to have a "tariff" system in exactly the same way that the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme works. Then claimants would not need a lawyer and insurers would not need to chase claimants in this way as the compensation amount would be mutually agreed.
My teenage son was involved in an accident and like the report he was contacted quickly by a claims advisor, who came around the house, interviewed him, then took him to the crash site, then filled out an accident report and got my son to sign it. After complaining to the insurers about his actions, we got a letter of apology and never heard from him again.
I am a personal injury solicitor. The problem with these early offers is the imbalance in knowledge. The person injured has no knowledge of what is involved, what losses they can claim for or what would be a fair settlement. They don't know how long they might take to recover and are often still in shock. They need independent advice at that point. The insurer is just going to look after their shareholders, not the injured person. The insurer cannot be trusted to look after the injured person - there is a clear conflict of interest. The only person who will look out for the interests of an injured person is an independent solicitor. Remember, once you settle your claim, there is no going back on it.
Tim Beasley, Birmingham
I was offered a job doing exactly this. I didn't take the job as it was a commission-only position. Basically you only get paid if you convince people not to claim. This method of reimbursing staff encourages them to put undue pressure on a claimant, something I would not be happy doing.
I am a former director of an insurer and member of various industry bodies. This is not normal industry practice. Most insurers will seek to establish rapid contact with all parties to an accident but will not step over an ethical line. Rapid contact has been made necessary thanks to the activities of ambulance chasers and claims farmers who seek to invent or inflate claims if given half a chance. A lot of problems would be avoided if the Law Society insisted on reasonable ethical standards amongst some of their members.
Phoning to give certain information such as who will be dealing with their claim, how they can get in contact and what the victim's rights are is fine. That's actually helpful. Badgering them to make a decision (favourable to the insurer) after the victim has just been in the accident is not - it should be illegal. If it happened to me I would record the next calls and seek legal advice against the insurer
Maybe people approached in this manner could tag on an additional claim against the insurance companies for stress caused by bully and harassment. That may pave a way of curtailing this dubious practise.
I have worked as a regional claim manager for Quinn for the last 2.5 years. For 3rd party capture for personal injury, always follow judicial studies guidelines. The legal representation is often more misleading as non qualified persons increasingly deal with claimants. Most 3rd parties never see an actual qualified solicitor. We all pay for the additional costs of legal teams which is £800 plus 20% (fixed fee) of anything they are compensated for. Unlike your insider, I was trained to always volunteer legal representation. Moreover, many people are happy to settle a good offer as they are bombarded with Accident Management companies. Most 3rd parties don't realise their details are sold on by their own insurers, which often creates more distress. We are pro-active, make decisions quickly because we know and live in the areas we work and ensure that anyone involved has a direct person to talk to at all hours. Third parties often find that this is alleviates much of the accident trauma.
Sarah Raynes, Sheffield
I have been working for one of the mentioned companies for some years and would like to make a few points. Having dealt with hundreds of injury claims, I would say only a small portion of the people were actually injured. The majority hear the many adverts on the TV or radio for no-win no-fee accident companies and feel they can make a few pounds. I have never put pressure on anyone to take my offer of compensation and I am not aware of any of my colleagues putting any undue pressure on any injured parties. Solicitors are complaining because we do not have to pay their overpriced charges, for example £150 for a letter! What needs to be looked at more is the accident management companies that charge extortionate amounts for hire and charge the at-fault insurance company, for example I had a claim a couple of years ago where the hire bill for one months hire was £30,000 and the person car was only worth £80,000 - this is one of the reasons peoples insurance premiums are going up.
The report was in my personal opinion biased and poorly done. Shame on the BBC for this. To raise just two examples of poor practice as evidence of the complaint is rubbish given the amount of claims made in the whiplash capital of the world. Insurers are not trying to "stitch up the victims", they are trying to prevent all the other parties from leeching of the system.
I have worked for an insurance company that insists on doorstepping, and agree that pressure put on accident victims, while they are still shaken is appalling. When instructed to do this, it always made me feel very uncomfortable, but we were pressurised to do this.
In order to fulfil their obligations as a business, insurers must always seek to minimise the outlay made in claims rather than to seek to pay early or to discover new needs. The door-stepping is clearly a method of, at the least, weighing an early offer against a later forces claim by the victim but probably more likely because the insurance company knows that a later settlement will be more costly based on their risk management know-how. Where a business model has to act against the primary needs of a member of the public in order to succeed as an enterprise regulation is necessary. I do not deny that the insurance companies need to make their profit or even to weigh the costs of a claim and seek to act in its own interest. The public has the need to be protected from such acts and only a healthy cynicism and regulation can do so.
Gary Mitchell, Shoreham-by-Sea
I work for an insurance company that makes offers to third parties after an accident. I am comfortable in my skin. As in anything in life, the integrity of the process depends on the people operating the system. If you kicked a football through your neighbour's window, you would go round and offer to repair it. You would not expect your neighbour to sue you and add legal costs, especially after you had offered to repair the window. If you hit someone with your car, you offer to repair the car (or rather your insurer does). If they got hurt, you offer to compensate them. Many people are happy to deal directly with me. I have paid out low figures and I have paid out some very high figures indeed, using medical evidence and without the need for a lawyer to be involved. I say to people "If at any point you think I'm messing you around, use a lawyer - it's your right."
I think it is proactive of insurance companies to take these steps to stop fraudulent personal injury claims. You can't watch any adverts on TV without some injury specialist trying to entice you to claim when often there is no need to. From experience, yes solicitors are kicking up a fuss but only because the insurance companies are starting to offer direct settlements as an alternative. Each settlement is taken on merit and obviously patience may be required on some more serious claims but the solicitors need to be patient also and stop harassing the client to claim in the first place.
I run an accident management company and I have several examples of this practice. One company has even sent a cheque for £250 to the client and then telephoned him to say if he does not appoint a solicitor they will pay him a further £1,000; if he did not accept they would make the claim more difficult for him. I also have a good example of how an insurer sent a claims manager to a clients house who had just arrived home after several days in hospital. The client's mother telephoned me and I had to tell him to leave the house. The practice of badgering clients into submission works quite often. Accident management companies are regulated by the Ministry of Justice and we have strict regulations we have to follow.
John Stephenson, Liverpool
There are two cases which were heard by the Court Of Appeal a few weeks ago where judgement was awaited. I was in court. There was concern expressed that the insurer had cold called and also written direct to the victim. They did not like the contents of the letter which they considered to be nothing short of a threat. They suggested that claimants ought not to be compelled to deal with the insurer especially considering there is likely to be ill feeling. Turning to the contents of the letter, its formulation of the consequences (if the claimant does not accept the offer) they felt was wrong. They suggested at one point that insurer's ought to be corresponding with one another and not their policyholders. The overall tone was one of amazement that insurers were effectively cold calling unrepresented accident victims. Whilst the FSA may take a while to change behaviour, the Court of Appeal may, when it hands down its judgement, act as force for the consumer in these matters.
Steve Evans, Birmingham
To take a case to court costs time and money. If there was a uniformed approach where the claimant could deal directly with the insurance company and it be regulated, then there would be no need for solicitors to get involved. They contribute to pushing the premiums up on our policies at the end of the day because they push up the cost of the claim. You should be allowed to seek medical advice before making a decision and there should be defined levels of compensation for defined injuries. It should be as black and white as that.
I am a solicitor and when acting for a client I asked an insurer not to contact my client but to communicate with me, as is normal practice when a party is represented by a solicitor. Instead it has pressured the foreign man - who is not good at English - into settling his claim without medical evidence. The man stated they promised they would deal with the legal costs and he should not worry about them. This appears to have been a lie, based on an incorrect assumption the man would not have to pay legal costs (and therefore the insurer would not have to pay them for him). It looks like a court case will be needed to obtain payment of the costs by the insurer.
My daughter was involved in a no-fault-of-her-own accident. Within 19 hours she was called by the other person's insurer and offered a sum of money to settle her claim right then. After finding my daughter was injured the insurer offered to pay for a physio at their expense, providing it was one appointed by them. Needless to say we have now taken legal action and all personal contact has ceased.
Alan Fenlon, London
You should be given the option. If you don't like what the companies are offering then get legal representation. Solicitor groups are up in arms because they will be losing thousands of pounds by their lack of involvement.
The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.