Many of our clients have received “cold calls” from dodgy claims harvesters after they have been involved in a car accident, particularly when it was not their fault. Partner and Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law, Jeremy Roche discusses this alarming practice.
Operator: We cannot settlement the matter but when you are using the car you are paying the premium interest. Yeh?
Jeff Garrett: Ok
Jeff Garrett: Well I just didn’t know how you got my information after having a car accident because I haven’t spoken to a lawyer or done anything about it. I’ve already been to the doctors so why do I have to go to another doctor?
Jeff Garrett: I’ve already been to the doctors. Why do I have to go to another doctor?
Operator: No that is my own doctor team ok. We would need a medical certificate as per our requirements. That is the reason you need to visit my doctor and my doctor they will [study you?] very close to you ok. They wont charge you anything they will not make any physical check about ?? or anything like that. Just a verbal discussion they will make a strong medical certificate for you ok?
Jeff Garrett: So who is your doctor? And where is he?
Operator: That will be dealt with by my appointment team they will tell you each and everything. Ok alright. My job is to pick the information and pass onto the appointment team ok that is my job alright.
Jeff Garrett: Well I…
Operator: …Once you proceed…
Jeff Garrett: I thought you said you were a law firm but you’re not a lawyer?
Similar to this recent recorded phone call, there has been an increasing incidence of so-called “claims harvesters” who are ‘cold calling’ people who have had car accidents in Queensland and badgering them to make a claim for damages for personal injuries against the CTP insurer of the driver at fault. This is the insurance that covers claims for personal injuries that attaches to the registration of all vehicles (‘compulsory third party’ or CTP insurance) and covers the driver at fault.
Although this practice is outlawed in Queensland through the PIPA legislation, the claims harvesters get around this by convincing the unsuspecting car accident victims to use lawyers who are outside the State of Queensland in pursuing personal injury claims. The claims harvesters “sell” the client with the claim to the lawyers for thousands of dollars but this is not usually disclosed by the lawyers to the clients.
The claims harvesters work for companies which are based overseas (some are located in the UK) and gain access to insurance company databases which contain details of the people involved in these accidents. They enter into arrangements with insurance companies to be the “claims brokers” or assist in the “claims process” dealing with the property damage claim of the vehicle involved in the accident. They obtain details of the people who are involved in the accident and telephone them to convince them into bringing a claim. They promise the unsuspecting clients thousands of dollars in compensation and tell them that it will cost them nothing with “reputable no win no fee lawyers”. After they have convinced the client to proceed with the claim, they “sell” the claim to the lawyers (usually for a minimum of $2000-$3000) who then take on the claim.
We know this is true because our firm has recently been approached by several overseas companies located in the UK offering an arrangement where they would refer clients to us on the basis of a payment to them of $3,000 for each valid claim. They stated that they were entering into arrangements with insurance companies to act as their “claims brokers” or “claims managers” and that they had access to literally thousands of clients injured in accidents where they made a claim through their insurance company for property damage. When it was pointed out to them that this practice is effectively outlawed in the State of Queensland, they stated that they had arrangements with lawyers “outside the jurisdiction”.
We have also had firsthand experience of a claims harvesting company known as “Accident Helpline” or ”Australian Injury Helpline” who contacted a staff member of our firm after she was involved in a rear-end collision on the M1 on the Gold Coast. The car that she was driving was owned by a family company and, not only were emails sent to the family company email address attempting to solicit a claim arising from the accident, a “claims harvester” actually rang our office wishing to speak with the person involved in the accident! The phone number for this company was a Sydney number and they were very insistent with wanting to process a claim and refer it to “their lawyers”. They promised thousands of dollars in compensation and that there would be no fees involved. When questioned about how they knew about the accident, they stated that they had obtained this information from the insurance company or the insurance company’s “brokers”.
We caution clients and the public generally about accepting cold calls from these companies who are obviously only in it to generate money from the lawyers who they refer these claims to. It is doubtful that the lawyers would disclose the fees that they are paying to the claims harvesters for the referral of the clients and their ethics must be questionable if they are accepting referrals from such an unethical source.
We suggest that our clients obtain proper legal advice from accredited specialists in this area of law and report any such contact directly to their insurance company. Insurance companies should not release this information to third parties as the data is highly confidential. Furthermore, it is a criminal offence for lawyers to accept these types of referrals from claims harvesters and they could also be prosecuted by the Legal Services Commission. The Motor Accident Insurance Commission in QLD has issued a news post concerning claim farmers acting as MAIC employees here: https://maic.qld.gov.au/just-hang-up-claim-farmers/. NRMA also has a useful webpage here: https://www.nrma.com.au/consumer-alert.
If you require any further information about Personal Injury Claims please do not hesitate to contact Department Manager Kelli Costin on Freecall 1800 621 071 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or a free initial consultation and discuss our ‘no win no fee’ service. We have a dedicated team of lawyers who specialise in this area of law and practice exclusively in personal injury claims.