I am reading an American book at present called “Delay, Deny, Defend” – it sets out why insurance companies don’t pay claims and what you can do about it.

The author clearly sets out that the main objective in today’s insurance market is not to protect you. In fact, he says insurers often try to avoid paying justified claims and the name of the game today is to delay, deny and defend. While this is an American book we all know what happens in America today happens in Europe and Ireland tomorrow. The end game is to improve their profits and delay the payment of claims in whatever way possible.

So I began to think how does this work in the Irish context. You will be familiar with the takeover of Irish insurance companies in recent years. Quinn Insurance by US based Liberty Insurance, Eagle Star by Zurich Insurance and PMPA by Axa Insurance. These are all foreign based with different approaches to what was the business model operating for insurance in Ireland. We also have Lloyds Syndicates who provide insurance for specialist markets in Ireland such as young people and van drivers. Remember all are in business to make a profit and no matter what the ads say your insurance company is not your friend – you need to be smart and savvy to deal with your insurer.

We have example of the Injuries Board process right in front of us. It was set up by insurance companies to reduce the cost of insurance and they now find themselves in direct competition with themselves.

When I lodge a claim for a client I am obliged to do so with the Injuries Board. The insurance companies are copied with the medical report and the client’s description of the accident. Immediately they start phoning to see if I will settle the case on their terms. There is no discussion as to what is in the client’s best interest, how long it will take them to recover from their injuries. Simply we will give you money to get rid of it now at a cheaper basis.

This makes me think about people who are encouraged by the Injuries Board to lodge their own claims with a basic medical report. I take it that they are also subjected to a barrage of phone calls from insurance companies to consider early settlement on a compromised sum rather than the full value of the claim. Don’t forget the Injuries Board are very anxious that people will deal directly with them and their friends in the insurance companies and not seek independent advice. Again insurance companies want to get out as cheaply as possible. Be warned if you think you can match the might of the insurance companies in dealing with a claim yourself without expert advice.

Finally one little trick pulled by the insurance companies back at the introduction of the euro was as follows. We know the euro is valued at 20% less than the pound yet when it arrived all compensation levels remained at the same level. In other words the insurance companies got a drop of 20% overnight in relation to the amounts they had to pay for injury claims and nobody said anything about it.

In summary as long as we have an independent Court system which can assess people’s injuries and the affect it has had on their lives we have some guarantee of fairness in the injuries compensation system. Your best weapon therefore in the entitlement to claim compensation for your injury is the Court system rather than the insurance biased Injuries Board system. The choice is yours.