Thursday, 25 July 2013

Lawyers hit back at unjust claims

One of our solicitors has hit back at claims that “ambulance chasing lawyers” are to blame for a huge rise in compensation claims. Alison Carter is a partner in our firm, who leads the personal injury team, and she has almost 20 years’ experience in the sector.

“I cannot believe the number of times lawyers are criticised for encouraging accident victims to take action when in fact it is claims management companies and insurers who contact victims to suggest they make a claim.

“It’s been a great concern to me for many years that insurers and data collection companies take such an aggressive stance to try to pressurise anyone involved in an accident to claim for compensation. It gives a bad and false impression of a profession that has helped genuinely, and often seriously, injured members of the public to seek compensation for their injuries when someone else has been at fault.

“Yes of course there are some bogus claims, but these are few and far between, and they are often caught out as soon as they start talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer.”

Alison said that previously, third parties did not charge a fee for passing on claims and victims approached solicitors directly.

“But a change in the law allowed claims management companies to be created and permitted insurance companies to charge solicitors for passing on personal injury claims. As the solicitors who actually do the work, we would have been more than happy for the old rules to remain in place, and for these ‘middle men’ who make financial gains from passing on details not to exist at all.”

Alison said the insurance industry had lobbied the Government so hard that significant changes to the claims processing system had already been made.

“But these changes have been ill-thought out and will be counter-productive. There was very little consultation with lawyers who handle the work, and this was a real missed opportunity. The new rules will prevent a lot of genuine claimants from pursuing their claims as there will be fewer solicitors offering the service and if the client submits a claim as an individual, they are likely to get much less compensation than they deserve.

“It’s long overdue that the true picture of the compensation claims industry is revealed, and that professional and experienced lawyers are no longer tarnished with a reputation they don’t deserve.”

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Putting companies in the picture

Companies planning a new website must ensure they have the legal right to use any images they include, our senior partner has warned.

Graham Davies said thanks to the Internet, it was all too easy to find suitable images online but companies needed to take a cautious approach.

“Running an internet search to find the images you need is all well and good, but you need to be sure who owns the rights to them. Don’t just assume that because the image isn’t necessarily attributed to anyone it’s safe to use it – many of the larger photo agencies have powerful software which constantly sweeps the Internet to check if anyone is using their images without permission.

“And if you do get found out,  you can expect a call from the agency involved who will track you down in order to demand you pay up for the breach of copyright, which they are perfectly entitled to do.”

Graham said any company considering a new website should make sure they only used images for which they had the legal owner’s permission.

“So there are several options open to you if you want to ensure you don’t get caught out. You could take the photos yourself, or ask one of your staff to do it if they’re keen on photography, or you could hire a professional photographer.

“If you do bring in an expert though, make sure you buy not only the images but their copyright too, or you may find you’re not allowed to automatically use the images anywhere else such as on brochures or other printed marketing material.

“Another suggestion is to source the images from a stock photo agency where you can pay to use them for commercial reasons. You will find some stock photo agencies also give you the option to control who else can use the images you choose and that they will track them for you to ensure no-one uses them without permission.

“This will cost more, but it will mean you can ensure your company’s website images are unique to you and not used all over the Internet by your competitors.”