Anger at quick-fix insurance firms

A solicitor has accused insurance companies of acting inappropriately and rushing to settle claims before people can get medical or legal advice.

Writing in The Law Society Gazette, Brendan Quinn, head of Quinn Solicitors in Ballyfermot, said insurance companies were regularly making “doorstop settlements”, a practice he said had been introduced by Quinn Insurance, a company founded by businessman Seán Quinn.

The solicitor claimed that in the case of Quinn Insurance, if a person had an accident on a Friday, one of its representatives could appear on their doorstep the following Monday “brandishing a cheque book and buying off the claim for as little as possible”. He said in these cases the claimant would not have the benefit of medical or legal advice.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Quinn said he did not believe that what the insurance companies were doing was illegal but it was inappropriate. He said quick “doorstep settlements” encouraged a claim culture, as people’s injuries had not been medically assessed but they were still able to receive compensation.

“For certain insurance companies now, this practice is a regular occurrence and insurance customers have little or no interest in the welfare of claimants — whether they are injured or not is of little concern to them,” Quinn wrote. “Their bottom line is that they want claims settled as quickly as possible, preferably without legal advice, thereby reducing substantially the amount of compensation paid and, in addition, obtaining the added benefit of not having to comply with capital reserves regulations.”

He recounted two cases from December 2013, of which he said he was aware, when a large multinational company settled two claims from minors some weeks after they were in a serious road traffic collision. Quinn claimed the cases were settled by paying the children’s parents €15,000 each without medical reports and without the matter being approved by a judge.

John Byrne, communications manager of Insurance Ireland, a representative body for the industry, said insurers did adhere to the Central Bank of Ireland’s Consumer Protection Code in relation to the time frames and means for settling claims. “Insurers seek to settle claims fairly and in a manner that is not unduly prolonged,” he said.

Under the code, insurers must allow claimants 10 days to accept or reject an offer of settlement. A claimant can waive this right but insurers must retain a record of this decision.

“Insurers, by the nature of the service provided, ensure the welfare of the individuals and businesses availing of the service,” said Byrne.