Insurers should look to “drive a wedge between claimant and solicitor” when dealing with late notified claims (LNCs), which have spiked during lockdown, a counter-fraud specialist has argued.
Ben Leech, a partner at Keoghs, said insurers should take personal injury claimants and their lawyers “to task” by challenging claims and so “disengage claimants from the process when the early promise of cash is not realised”.
He said the increase in LNCs has been “an expected consequence” of lockdown, with claimant solicitors and claims management companies “reviewing their back catalogue of cases to make up a shortfall with so many vehicles effectively off the road for months”.
Writing on the Keoghs website, he said LNCs submitted during lockdown demanded robust scrutiny, so as to ensure “fraud isn’t overlooked whilst also helping negate time wasted on false positives”.
He divided lockdown LNCs into three broad categories: claims that have previously been submitted only to be resubmitted by a completely new firm; cases which may have been repudiated or presumed abandoned, “but have received a new injection of vigour during lockdown”; and fresh cases which either surfaced previously but failed to fully materialise into a claim or “have not previously seen the light of day”.
Mr Leech urged insurers to adopt a strong response and consistent strategy, arguing that they should not be tempted by low-ball offers if they wanted to defeat this activity in the medium to long term.
“As always, claimant motivation can be a key indicator. There’s no doubt such claims have been easier to farm during the lockdown period, with potential claimants sat at home and more likely to answer cold calls, texts and emails, translating into greater conversion rates.
“Let’s not forget that the relaxation of remote medical examinations also aids the claims process, making it much smoother and less labour intensive for the claimant.”
A recycled claim, he said, begged the question of why the claimant needed to instruct multiple firms, “with the obvious conclusion being that the route to market is clearly via farming”.
A dormant claim was “the perfect example of an unmotivated claimant who has not pursued a claim with any vigour and is unlikely to want to attend court”.
A new claim which suffered a false start, meanwhile, suggested both a lack of motivation and the likelihood of no injury or treatment being sought.
Mr Leech continued: “Given this insight, we can then look to challenge such claims and ensure they are fully validated, with the appropriate evidence either being sought or identified as absent.
“Breaking the chain can be key here too – an appropriate level of disruption can potentially drive a wedge between claimant and solicitor.”
Beyond this, the solicitor said a “sensible tactic” would be to seek a signed mandate from the claimant themselves along with proof of identification.
“With recycled or new claims, requesting sight of the written authorisation to submit the CNF is legitimate. Direct approaches to check the claimant has instructed relevant firms can also be undertaken.
“In previously dormant claims, it is perfectly reasonable to seek confirmation of instruction.”
Mr Leech said insurers should also focus on identifying the claimant firms bringing such claims. “Whilst any nervousness about false positives is understandable, a robust and consistent KYO [know your opponent] strategy is required to break the chain.”