10 May 2012

Disruption to foot ligaments - but insurer's computer says “no!”

Denise,  riding her Vespa 125, ran into the side of a taxi whose driver had executed a u-turn into her path.   She and her scooter were propelled across the road.  As to be expected, she suffered extensive “soft tissue” bruising to her body, and some whiplash,  but also a crush and torsional injury to the middle of her foot.  The diagnosis was that she had disruption of ligaments in her forefoot and extensive bone bruising.  This persisted so that wearing high heels remains uncomfortable.   As Denise is the Facilities Manager of a fashion chain,  and high heels are required at least for meetings, this proved a problem.

The taxi driver’s insurers admitted liability straight away and in fact made an early payment to her in respect of her scooter.  However,  we could not get them to budge from what we thought was an undervaluation of this problematic soft tissue injury. 

Some insurers see “soft tissue injury” as equivalent to temporary bruising,  whereas many injuries to ligaments and tendons can be more troublesome than a fracture. Motor Insurers use a computer programme to value claims – a “one size fits all” programme. Their claims handlers are not permitted to depart from the figure the computer tells them to pay. This is invariably too low. The insurers, having made the usual low initial offers, would not be persuaded to improve their best offer from £9,000.00 so proceedings were taken.  The solicitors instructed by the insurers quickly saw sense and an overall settlement was agreed for £13,750.00,  with costs being paid in full in addition.

Insurers computers undervalue  accident claims

Denise was happy with the outcome.

Under Government proposals which will take effect later this year,  or early next, lawyers acting for people like Denise are expected to undertake her claim for much  reduced costs on the ground that the  victim’s legal costs of pursuing claims has driven up the cost of insurance premiums for car drivers.  Denise’s case was a good example of why the legal costs paid by the other driver’s insurers often exceed what they could get away with if they  made a more skilful assessment of the case at the outset. Denise’s case was not extreme. Many cases are contested all the way, in the hope that the victim will lose heart – as unrepresented claimants often do. 

Motor insurers say that if the victim goes straight to them rather than to her own lawyers, they will “see her right”. But if Denise had done so, she would likely have walked away at best with  2/3 of what we recovered for her.

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