Insurer Profits Remain High

Three insurance companies have posted healthy profits in their 2017 first half interim results. Has this also led to a reduction in the cost of car insurance premiums charged to drivers?

The Results

Aviva’s half year results for 2017 show that its overall operating profit rose by 11%, and that UK motor insurance premiums increased by 9% (from £530 million to £580 million). The dividend paid out to shareholders went up by 13%.

AXA also reported strong half year performance with a 4% increase in underlying earnings, and a 6% growth in revenue from UK motor insurance.

Direct Line reported a 9.5% increase in operating profits in its interim half year results for 2017. In early 2017, Direct Line increased its motor insurance prices to its customers by 6.6%, compared with the same time in 2016, blaming the increase on proposed plans to adjust the Discount Rate and on an “anticipated increase in claims inflation”.

However, in its interim results paper, the Direct Line Group has said that “bodily injury claims continued to trend more favourably than expected”, meaning that it has paid out less than expected. The insurer also said that its motor line continued to grow gross written premiums, which was up 10%, with Direct Line driving the growth.

Do Drivers Benefit from Insurer’s Profits?

Claimant lawyers have asked insurers to justify profits  at a time when the average cost of comprehensive car insurance cover is at a record high of £690 – an increase of 19.6% in a year. Insurers do not detail how they calculate premiums but a need to be more transparent is gaining momentum; in particular The Daily Telegraph investigation eerlier this month revealed that repair costs were being inflated by insurers as much as 100%. Their report showed that some insurers were doubling the actual cost of car repairs in exchange for financial kickbacks.

The Government  is under pressure from insurers to change the law to make it more difficult for those injured on the roads or at work to make a claim for damages. They  argue that this was the only way to lower prices for motorists, but behind the scenes insurers are not passing on profits to car drivers.

We know that last year road accident claims dropped by 7% and workplace accident and disease claims by 21%. Insurers have stated that a recent increase in the way that future damages are calculated will impact their profits and suggest that savings will be passed on to drivers. We wait to see if this will happen, especially as the Government are set to again reduce the calculations for future damages for injured clients. Will this saving be passed on to drivers if that happens?

 

Top Tips for Personal Budgets

Many of our clients rely on support from the Government to pay for care. The system of Personal Budgets allows parents or carers to apply for financial help from their local council. The procedures and criteria for each council are not the same which makes the whole process confusing and inconsistent.

Alison Brooks recently attended a talk, given by Nottingham City Council  (“NCC”). They gave helpful advice about how to apply for a personal budget (“PB”) and what is covered. Here are some tips you might find useful but please note that every case is decided individually and another council may be different.

What are PBs

  1. Personal budgets cover education, health or social care. They are used to meet the additional needs of a disabled child. They do not cover the usual costs of bringing up a child. This means they do not include costs for childcare so a carer or parent can go to work, even though we know some families struggle to find suitable care for a disabled child.
  2. There is no minimum age limit but councils are reluctant to pay a PB for babies and young children as they would need more help than an older child. Direct payments will stop at age 18 unless the child is in a special school when payments continue to the end of the next school year at age 19.
  3. Payments are usually made direct to the parent who can use the funds to provide respite care or extra help for their child.
  4. Some payments are made to the provider, for example education payments to a school or social and health payments to a care agency.

What Can You Claim?

  1. NCC will pay up to £1,600 if your child has a diagnosed disability, without needing another assessment.
  2. You can also claim up to £6,000 without an assessment but your child will need evidence from a multi agency assessment to show more help is needed.
  3. Your needs will usually be assessed by a social worker if you need a higher budget, for example, overnight short breaks for respite. NCC will fund up to £9,000 per annum.
  4. For those families with very complex needs, a budget over £9,000 can be paid. This is available to children with exceptional health care needs and usually also involves a specialist nurse assessing your child.
  5. Please note this criteria is only applied by NCC. Find out from your own council about their pathways for claiming.

Applying for a Personal Budget

It can be time consuming applying for help. Consider if a close relative or friend can assist; they may have noticed when help is needed that you have not thought about.

Here are some items to think about including in your application

  • Keep a note of extra time you spend in the day and at night for your disabled child compared to one of their siblings.
  • Keep a diary or take photos of times when you have needed someone to help your child access social events.
  • Are you a single parent? Councils are more likely to increase help if you are coping alone.
  • Are there other circumstances at home which might affect your child’s needs, for example, looking after an elderly relative or another child with special needs.
  • What about your own health? It is vital that parents and carers remain healthy and often we see families struggling to look after their own health needs.
  • Keep details of payments and a record of activities which were not covered by the PB plan. You may want to consider adding these to the PB when you apply the next year.
  • If your child’s needs increase, let the council know. The council is able to review PB plans before the annual review takes place.
  • If you need to employ a carer, include the cost of an agency to set up payroll.
  • If your carer may need training, for example, how to move a disabled child safely, then include the costs for manual handling training courses.

If you are not getting enough to help your child, the more evidence you have, the more likely the council will be able to help.

Using Personal Budget Payments

You will need to set up a separate bank account to keep a record of payments. Most councils, including NCC, will monitor paments to make sure you use the money for the needs identified in the support plan. The PB must be used for specific care needs but can include help for your child to mix with their peer group and to achieve as much independance as possible. Accessing social and leisure activities can be included in your plan so make a note of the cost for a carer coming with you.

NCC require 3 monthly monitoring of bank statements and documents. Check what your council needs so you can make sure you have the right information for them. NCC make it easier by setting up an account which they can monitor. This is a good option for busy families and saves you time

If you need to employ carers, make use of the help councils provide to put you in touch with an agency to set up payment. They will include DBS checks as well as making sure pension and payroll and properly set up. YOu will need to keep a record of time spent emplying the carer. Whilst the cost of using an agency will come out of your PB, if you include it in your plan, the money will be there for you to use.

Carers may also want to attend courses on safeguarding (which is usally free to attend) and you may want to ask for money in your PB to cover manual handling courses.

Summary

Working your way through direct payments for Personal Budgets is hard when you are coping with a child with special needs. Do contact your local council to get as much help as possible. It is regrettable that PBs are still a postcode lottery and what one council will pay may vary from each area. We can only suggest you get as much informaton as possible to support your application and ask the council for advice before you send it in.

The council can also tell you about any other services yo might use. We know that NCC has a “Max Card” which families can use for free or discounted access to an event or venue; see www.mymaxcard.co.uk

Get advice from your local doctors and therapists. If you have a social worker, ask them what you can claim and ask other families about their experience – knowledge is power!

 

 

How To Recognise Subtle Brain Injury

Debra Morris, Chair of Headway Derby, has written about Subtle Brain Injury (SBI) in the latest addition to our website pages. Check out the details on our Personal Injury section, with guidance and advice about the signs of SBI.

Debra shares her knowledge of clients who had SBI yet their diagnosis was often missed by medical professionals. This is because SBI can often involve concussion without  losing consciousness and is therefore treated as a minor injury. It is vital to look out for signs of SBI, for example, dizziness or changes in behaviour.

There are experts who can determine if a client has suffered a SBI and this can make all the difference to clients. If you have SBI it can affect your future, including getting back to work. It is therefore essential that clients get the right advice to secure the right amount of compensation.  Debra specialises in SBI which means she knows who to turn to for the right medical assessments and can support clients during their fight for compensation. Don’t leave your future in the hands of a solicitor if they do not specialise in SBI.

Please read Debra’s page on SBI for more information or call Debra for free and impartial advice.

“Absolutely fantastic” service

This was the response from our client, Rae Scudder, who sent a note to Ed Myers and his assistant, Sue, after her road traffic claim settled.

On the evening of 16 November 2015, Rae was travelling home from her late shift,on on her moped, when she was hit by a vehicle which turned directly into her path.  Rae, a keen and talented dancer, sustained serious injury to both legs requiring intensive hospital treatment.  She underwent extensive physiotherapy, but was unable to either dance or teach dancing for many months.  Gradually however, through determination and commitment, she was able to resume her passion for dancing.

Ed Myers lawyer at Barratts Legal

How Did We Help Rae?

At Barratts we prioritise rehabilitation; Ed was able to assist Rae by persuading the insurers of the car driver to agree to an urgent initial assessment of Rae’s needs. This enabled us to get a payment to fund rehabilitation. This meant Rae could recover more quickly from her injuries meaning she could also get back to dancing much sooner.

Rae describes Ed’s advice as “straightforward, honest and trustworthy”. We pride ourselves that clients are recommended to come to Barratts for a personal, specialist service. That is why it’s great news to hear Rae tell us that “You made a difficult time much easier and I felt treated with dignity and respect throughout.”

Sue helped Rae by communicating direct with the Vehicle recovery company, making “complicated and confusing” jargon understandable. Indeed, Rae says that Sue remained “calm and collected” and she had”incredible support and service” from our Personal Injury team.

After lengthy negotiations, Ed persuaded the insurers to accept responsibility for the accident. They paid compensation for Rae’s physical and psychological injuries. The insurers also compensated Rae for her future losses because her injuries were likely to affect her career as a dancer.

We ask clients to tell us how we can improve our service. Rae said there was nothing – she thinks we are “efficient, professional and welcoming- I can’t praise them enough”.

Spinal Injury Association Survey Revealed

The Spinal Injury Association (the “SIA”) polled 136  people with spinal cord injury (“SCI”) to seek their views about litigation. The results show that the current system is too slow but, more importantly, the experience of their lawyer had a significant impact on the person’s compensation. Why are Clients With SCI Unhappy With Their Lawyers? […]

World Day of Remembrance for Victims of Road Traffic Accidents

We have supported the families of those killed or injured in road traffic accidents for over 30 years. We have seen changes for the better, such as more speed cameras to limit dangerous driving. We have also seen changes for the worse including the aftermath of drivers texting and using phones whilst driving.

The increase in traffic to and from Europe has also led to more claims being brought for accidents abroad and against foreign drivers in England. There has also been an increase in the number of drivers banned or uinsured but still taking to the road without thought for the damage they might cause.

The World Day Remembrance website has information from all over the world. As well as recognising the impact on families and friends of road traffic victims,it highlights the effect on the emergency services and long term cost for our communities.

Wider recognition is needed to prevent future deaths on the road and to reduce those who are bereaved or injured.

The official World Day of Remembrance website can be found at http://worlddayofremembrance.org/about/

Can A Car Passenger be Liable For Their Injuries?

Our client was only a teenager when she was injured in a car being driven by a friend, which lost control and hit a tree. She was in the rear seat and you would think that it would be a shut and closed personal injury case. However, the driver had drunk too much and if Debra’s client had known that when she got into the car, her damages would have been affected. It was also argued that she was not wearing her seatbelt. The client had lost a kidney in the accident so it was very important to prove that neither of these allegations were true.

Thanks to Debra’s experience, she successfully argued thather client was not, in any way, liable for her injuries as she did not know how much her friend had drunk. Debra was able to secure an admission for full liability.

Once the fault for the accident was determined, Debra needed an expert to assess the future medical risks for her client, which were high because she now only had one functioning kidney for the remainder of her life. Despite being seen by doctors in the NHS, she did not appreciate how much her claim was worth. Debra obtained an excellent medical report dealing with the extent of the injury, risks for the future of living with only one working kidney and managed to settle the whole claim within 18 months.

The client had been initially unsure about whether to pursue a claim for damages as she knew the driver, did not want to cause any bad feeling between them and did not realise how serious her injury was. Therefore Debra’s client was overjoyed with the result that we got for her and within a relatively short time period too. She was equally pleased and re-assured by the information from the medical expert as she had received very little advice or assistance from the NHS about the extent of her injury or what the future may hold for her.

Debra’s client will be using the money to put down a large deposit on a house in the future. Whilst this will not truly compensate our client, at least she feels that justice has been done and has some security for her future.

7 Figure Settlement For Client With Brain Injury

As with many clients who have suffered a head injury, our client had no recollection of the accident but we knew from the police reports that he had been driving the car when injured. This meant it was more difficult to prove that the other driver was at fault because our client could not speak up for himself about what happened.

Thanks to Debra’s experience of dealing with complex issues of liability, she finally managed to secure a full admission of liability a year after the accident. Debra also needed to make sure that rehabilitation for the client was put in place as soon as possible after the accident to give him the best chance of recovery. Our expert brain injury team have spent decades working with professionals who specialise in this area so there was no delay finding the right people to help with therapy, care and equipment. Debra managed to persuade the insurers to fund rehab through the Rehabilitation Code, on the basis that some fault by the defendant was bound to be upheld.

Once Debra had got the evidence together to secure 100% finding of blame against the defendant, she could concentrate on valuing the client’s loss of earnings claim. This is often challenged by defendants but we were able to get the very best result for the Claimant because of our experience. Debra investigated how her client’s career path would have progressed but for the accident. Sadly our client was not able to continue working because of his traumatic brain injury (TBI). Debra made sure we had the statements and evidence to prove his case.

We think it is vital that any lawyer acting for a client with a head injury has a proper understanding of TBI. Debra’s role as Secretary of Headway Derby and her many years spent helping clients with TBI ensured she knew about the impact of TBI on the claimant and his family.

We pride ourselves that our low caseloads mean we also have the time to work closely with claimants and their families, who trust us to secure the best possible compensation to help them in the future. The final award in this case was approved by the Court and the Claimant needs a Deputy to act for him in the Court of Protection because his TBI affects his ability to manage his own financial affairs. Julie Greenwood, Head of our Court of Protection Department at Barratts, has been able to work with Debra during the claim and is continuing acting for the client after the settlement was approved by the Court. Our Deputy service means that clients have much better continuity during and after the claim settles.

This case is an example of the importance of instructing only senior lawyers with expert understanding of TBI and rehabilitation. Early action and involvement of senior lawyers makes all the difference and produces a better and more timely outcome. The client’s family did not want to deal with large teams of junior lawyers; knowing that Barratts’ solicitors are consistently ranked at the top of their profession meant the family had confidence in us and Debra to do the job properly.