Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Early offers of settlement – too good to be true?

Lee Hart, Partner recently settled a claim for compensation for injury and financial loss arising from an incident involving our client, a pedestrian, who was knocked down by a car.

During the morning in December 2013, our client was knocked down while crossing a busy A road in foggy conditions. Because of the nature of his injuries, he did not remember too much about the incident itself. He suffered a blow to the head (though fortunately no lasting brain injury), multiple rib fractures, a fracture of the left shoulder blade, and fractures of the ankle and left fibula.

He was taken from the scene to hospital where he remained for just under two weeks.

Although there was no evidence that the driver of the car that struck him had been speeding, it was alleged that she was not paying due care and attention to the road ahead and travelling too fast (approximately 50mph in a 60mph limit) given the foggy weather conditions.

The driver’s insurers argued that our client was in the middle of the carriageway in a rural setting, wearing dark and camouflaged clothing, in gloomy and foggy conditions. They relied on witness evidence that the driver of the car had no chance of avoiding him and suggested that the accident was inevitable and unavoidable.

Despite their denial of liability, the driver’s insurers made an offer to pay £50,000 to our client to settle of his claim. They did so without seeing any evidence of his injuries. Our client was a retired gentleman and therefore any financial losses were relatively modest.

We had the benefit of assessing our client’s injuries by reference to his medical records. Despite the initial severity of his injuries, our client made a very good recovery. On that basis, we were able to advise him as to the broad bracket of compensation he could expect to receive for his injuries and financial losses. Armed with that advice, our client decided to accept the offer of £50,000 as it was probably more than he could expect to recover even after obtaining all of the evidence required to prove his claim.

When assessing the potential value of the claim, we had to consider the likely finding of contributory fault on the part of our client which would have reduced the award of compensation accordingly.

Lee Hart said: “Insurers have long been making offers to settle claims before obtaining independent medical evidence where a claimant’s injuries are relatively minor. Insurers see this as a way of avoiding the legal costs that come with the claim. The practice of making such ‘pre-medical’ offers, however, is no doubt contributing to the level of fraudulent claims being made, an issue the insurance industry has been targeting of late.”

Lee added: “We are now seeing an increase in the number of pre-medical offers being made in cases involving more serious injuries. By making an early offer, the insurers hope to avoid not only the legal costs, but also the full costs of rehabilitating the claimant, the costs of much needed treatment and care, and the costs of assisting claimants back into the workplace.”

“Occasionally, insurers do make offers which are too good to be true. Only after careful consideration should they be accepted. Whilst an early settlement can be attractive to some claimants, the danger is that if not advised properly, they risk under settling their claims.”

If you have received an offer to settle a claim but do not know whether it is a fair and reasonable offer, please consult one of our specialist personal injury lawyers for advice by email or phone 0800 316 8892.