Insurance Claims Advice
The Special Report from Legal Ombudsman, Zahida Manzoor, highlighted serious inadequacies in the manner in which the Law Society has dealt with the more than 800 complaints it has received against its members from miners claiming funds from the two miner compensation schemes.
Despite the damming report, Janet Paraskeva, chief executive of the Law Society remains staunch up against the mounting criticism of her organisation in the matter. She said," Some people have taken the opportunity to pursue a campaign against solicitors, unfairly raising expectations of miners and their families and creating unnecessary problems for solicitors and firms."
The report from the Ombudsman cited serious issues regarding the lack of investigation into individual cases and the rush to get miners to accept blanket compensation decided in advance by the solicitor in question. There were also many questions regarding conflicts of interest between solicitors and the claims handling agents in regard to their clients and even conflicts of interest between the Law Society, solicitors and complainants. The Ombudsman said, "It is my view that some solicitors and the Law Society may not have provided an adequate service to them (the miners)." She advised the Law Society to re-investigate many of the cases and if it should be found that the solicitors and/or the Law Society are found to have been negligent in their duties they should consider paying the miners adequate compensation.
In a scathing response to the Law Society boss' comments, Lord Lofthouse Pontefract, a long time fighter for sick miners, wrote in the Times Law Section that, "If by advising the elderly and infirm that they were entitled to fair compensation and protection from greedy solicitors, I was 'unfairly raising the expectations of miners and their families', then it is my privilege to plead guilty. If along the way I have been 'creating unnecessary problems for solicitors and firms', then such misfortunes is of their own making."
So far there have been 580,000 claimants for the COPD, a fund for miners affected by the inhalation of coal dust and 170,000 claimants in the VWF, a compensation scheme for miners affected by Vibration White Finger Syndrome. According to a report last year by Stephen Boys Smith into the miners compensation schemes, by 2011 the total money spent on the two schemes will reach £7 billion, of that £1.6 billion will go for the claimants costs, primarily legal costs and £4.5 billion will be paid out as compensation to sick miners. According to Lord Lofthouse, so far 165,994 miners have received less than £2000 each from the scheme in their claims and 3,949 miners have received as little as £99 while the lawyers for the miners are getting big fees for each claim.
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