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June 26th 2012

Personal Injury

Big brother is watching…

Big brother is watching…

The story emerged this week of a Hull cab company who are reported to have been advised by their insurers to install CCTV in their cabs, on the supposed basis that some of the personal injury claims made against their drivers in the recent past (presumably by passengers and other drivers) may have been fraudulent.     The self proclaimed aim is to reduce the number of supposedly fraudulent claims against the company, and to thereby save money.

The story emerged this week of a Hull cab company who are reported to have been advised by their insurers to install CCTV in their cabs, on the supposed basis that some of the personal injury claims made against their drivers in the recent past (presumably by passengers and other drivers) may have been fraudulent.     The self proclaimed aim is to reduce the number of supposedly fraudulent claims against the company, and to thereby save money.

When I first heard this story a number of thoughts occurred to me.

Firstly I was surprised that CCTV hadn’t been fitted into cabs in the past.  Being a cab driver must be one of the most dangerous jobs in our society, involving as it does coming into close contact with a large number of people who’ve consumed large quantities of alcohol, often in the early hours of the morning and in isolated locations.  Surely the number of assaults and robberies committed on cab drivers would be drastically reduced were there an ever present “eye” in the vehicle, and the chances of catching those responsible for any offences that still occurred would be significantly increased with the video evidence which would result.

Cab drivers working for any firm may therefore have some grounds for being concerned if CCTV hasn’t previously been introduced to deter attacks on them , yet is now being given consideration when there is money to be saved for their employers and/or their insurers.

Secondly, there would seem to be a potential commercial and marketing advantage to the introduction of CCTV into cabs, in that their presence may well make many passengers (especially young females) more confident in using their services.  Publicised allegations of inappropriate conduct or assaults by drivers purporting to work as cab drivers could have the effect of putting people off using the services of even the most reputable of cab firms.  Any such firms making it known that all of their vehicles have CCTV protection could surely use the fact to generate more business.    From that perspective, I was surprised that more reputable cab firms haven’t embraced the technology before now.

Finally though, the main thought, which occurred to me from the point of view of avoiding fraudulent claims, was “what a good idea”.    Accidents can happen, and injuries be sustained, in a spit second.  The ability to see exactly what caused an accident, in the form of viewing footage from a CCTV camera, can be invaluable.  Provided that the CCTV camera(s) are positioned in the right position(s);  the recordings are in a clear and accessible format; and the footage is retained and made available to other parties involved in the incident in all circumstances (i.e. not just when it shows the cab driver not to have been at fault) the potential to quickly establish responsibility for an incident is enormous.

Many of the bus companies in Hull already have CCTV on board, and I have personally dealt with a number of cases in which the resultant footage has put beyond doubt, at an early stage, who (if anybody) was to blame for an incident which has caused injury to one of my clients.    In many cases, such footage has helped show that the driver of another vehicle (perhaps a car cutting in front of the bus in question) is the person who was at fault for causing the bus driver to take the emergency evasive action which may have been the direct cause of an injury to one of his passengers.  In such a case, neither the bus driver nor the bus company will be at fault, and any claim will then (quite rightly) be directed towards the other driver.

Any measures which have the potential to reduce fraudulent claims can only be a good thing, provided that they do not have the side effect of stopping those with legitimate claims from pursuing the compensation which the legal system says they are entitled to.

Ironic then the insurance industry refuses to listen to or work with claimant solicitors to try and reduce fraud.

Insurance companies are content to settle more and more claims without even requiring a qualified doctor to confirm that a person has actually been injured.  This practice of insurers putting forward “pre-medical offers” can only encourage the practice of making fraudulent claims, yet it is entirely a procedure of the insurers’ own making.

The insurance industry also holds vast databases identifying claimants whose claims will always be viewed sceptically, largely based upon their previous claims histories.  They may have made numerous previous claims within a relatively short period of time, or made  a smaller number of claims but always in apparently identical circumstances.   Claimant solicitors have been asking for access to this database for many years, but without success.  However, such access could be invaluable in allowing solicitors to make an informed decision, before agreeing to act for a claimant, as to whether or not a potential claim  could be a fraudulent one.    We as a firm already train our staff in how to identify potentially sham litigation, but there is no doubt that access to the insurer database would provide another layer of protection and flag up as suspicious clients who may otherwise appear to be entirely legitimate.

Strangely, none of the recent press releases which I have seen from the insurance industry address either of the 2 above  points.  I wonder why ?

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