The pitfalls of dealing directly with a third party insurer

Stop road sign in traffic

Following a road traffic accident where liability is accepted by a third party – the other driver -  the third party insurers will sometimes respond to an injury claim by offering compensation to you directly, often without any medical evidence.

In the minority of cases it might be worth considering such an offer, but the motive and intention of the insurer should always be questioned.

In the vast majority of situations, a personal injury solicitor, acting in the interests of the client, will achieve a better result. Usually the third party insurer is acting in their own interest and hoping to pay out as little as possible.

The third party insurer wants to dismiss your claim as quickly and as cheaply as possible before it’s reviewed by legal and medical professionals. They will usually contact you very soon after an accident and try to reel you in with the offer of fast money. Before you even know the full extent of your injury and how it might impact on your life.

Should you accept the first offer of compensation from an insurance company?

You should avoid settling your case until you have made a full physical and psychological recovery or at the very least have a very clear and reliable prognosis, so that a realistic valuation can be calculated, based on expert medical opinion as to how long your recovery will take.

Failure to do so could well result in your claim being settled for far less than it is worth.

You could accept an first or early offer from the third party insurer believing, or indeed hopeful, that you will make a speedy recovery.  

However if you accept an offer at that stage and then a year on from the accident you find yourself still in pain or struggling mentally, perhaps still unable to work, perhaps with no income or even incurring additional costs as a result of your ongoing injury, there is nothing you can do.

There is no second chances after accepting an offer of compensation to settle your case.

A third party insurer might obtain a medical report. Even then early settlement is still a risk.

For example, the third party insurers' medical expert may state you are likely to make a full recovery in six months. They then make an offer which they say is based on a six month injury. Your claim is settled just a few months into your recovery, and you’re delighted at having achieved a result so quickly.

But, what if the medical expert is wrong?

What happens if you get to that six month point and find you have not fully recovered? If this happens you have settled your claim for less than it is worth and there is no second chance to get a better offer.

It is not possible to value your claim accurately without conclusive medical evidence (unless you have made a quick, full recovery following the accident). A third party insurer should not be able to do this either.

Where your prognosis is unclear, a third party insurer will always favour the best case scenario, which will result in the lowest possible offer. But, best case scenarios don't always happen and some injuries are permanent.

In order to stop you from seeking independent legal advice, third party insurers may try and tell you that solicitors will only over-complicate matters.

They may tell you that you will get a better settlement if you deal directly with them and cut out the legal fees.

Is it worthwhile paying legal fees for an injury claim?

It is true that if you instruct Digby Brown you will pay around 20% percentage of your settlement. But, the total you receive in your hand is still highly likely to be more than a third party insurer would be willing to pay you without seeking legal advice. 

We know from our analysis that clients who come to us with an offer from a third party insurer, will get on average 3 times more. In some circumstances we have settled cases for many times more than that.

We understand that clients can get frustrated when claims take a long time. Nobody wants to feel like things are dragging on, especially if money is tight as a result of an injury.

A third party insurer may tell you it will take longer to get a solicitor involved. This is because with the right solicitor your case will be managed properly and with your best interests in mind. They will be led by your recovery and independent medical evidence.

That is the only way to guarantee your claim is not sold short and that the final outcome is the best result for you.

At Digby Brown, we have no hidden agenda and we have no reason to string you along. You don’t pay us an hourly rate - only the small percentage agreed at the beginning. That being said, we will spend as much time as we need to, to get the best result for you.

Solicitors that are on your side

Unlike the third party insurer, we are acting in your best interests at every stage.

We deal with many insurers who put up a very strong fight against us. We deal with them day in day out and are used to their tactics and are not intimidated by them.

Third party insurers would rather deal direct with you because, quite frankly, they’d rather not deal with us. They know that in most cases they will get the result they want if they deal with you directly.

But that result is unlikely to be the best result for you.

Third party insurers are trained to make you relaxed and feel comfortable talking to them. You may think they are on your side, but a friendly conversation is really an attempt to uncover information that could be used against you to minimise your claim.

The best thing to do is to refuse to speak directly to the third party insurer. Do not provide a statement or sign anything they ask you to sign. This could damage your claim. Speak only to your own insurer and give them just the basic information – where, when and who.

The best option if you have been injured in an accident is to contact a personal injury solicitor.