This article outlines both the downside and the upside to handling Claimants in person and leaves you with some thoughts on what the future might hold.
There are no shortages of 'no win no fee' solicitors available up and down the country, yet some people still choose to represent themselves. Whilst we will never know their reasons, we suspect that either they cannot secure representation (because they have no case) or more worryingly, they believe that they do not need it.
Whilst we have no profiling data we suspect that Claimants in person share certain traits. They are often well educated and have time on their hands. They also, without exception, feel personally aggrieved over and above that which we would expect from a represented Claimant. This goes to produce a highly motivated adversary with little or no knowledge of the law but who has access to numerous social media platforms and the email addresses of the Insured's senior executives as well as our own!
Experience tells us that addressing the needs and concerns of the aggrieved Claimant can be time consuming and frustrating. This not only drains our collective resources but it can also be extremely hazardous talking down an aggrieved Claimant threatening to unleash on Social Media.
However, there are some positives. We can seize the opportunity to make a quick settlement as these cases are invariably low value and less serious. Solicitor's costs are simply not an issue and there are obvious savings for our clients.
We also have a Supreme Court judgment on our side:
In Barton v Wright Hassall LLP, the UK's highest court has confirmed that those acting without legal representation are not to be given special leeway in having to comply with the relevant court rules. This means that we can treat these cases from a procedural standpoint, in the same way as any other.
So what does all this actually mean for Insurers and the way that we handle their claims?
Whilst we can agree that the existence of the Claimant in person is nothing new, I think that we can see where this is all heading:
It is likely that Parliament will continue to restrict access to justice for lower value personal injury claims thereby forcing more people to represent themselves.
As Insureds (large and small) seek to engage more openly online they leave themselves vulnerable to either the opportunistic, misguided or vexatious litigant seeking to roll the dice and turn what might have previously been a complaint into a claim for compensation.
This article was written by Glenn Barker.