Warn­ing on crash in­jury claim scam

The West Australian - - NEWS - Kent Acott

Au­thor­i­ties fear the un­eth­i­cal prac­tice of “claims har­vest­ing” may be re­spon­si­ble for a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in car ac­ci­dent in­jury claims in WA.

The In­sur­ance Com­mis­sion of WA has re­ported claims jumped 11.3 per cent in 2016-17, from 3029 to 3370. They said “claims har­vest­ing” — which may be il­le­gal — might have con­trib­uted to al­most 200 of th­ese new claims.

“Claims har­vest­ing” or “claims farm­ing” is the prac­tice of un­eth­i­cally pur­su­ing ac­ci­dent vic­tims to en­cour­age them to lodge a mo­tor in­jury in­sur­ance claim. Vic­tims are of­ten en­cour­aged to ex­ag­ger­ate or even lodge false claims.

In­for­ma­tion is gath­ered in cold calls made to the pub­lic by peo­ple pre­tend­ing to be from a crash in­ves­ti­ga­tion com­pany, a law firm or the com­mis­sion.

The call­ers may de­ceive those in­volved in a crash by promis­ing sums of money if they lodge a claim through a spe­cific le­gal firm.

A num­ber of le­gal firms are sus­pected of in­volve­ment.

Com­mis­sion sec­re­tary Kane Black­man said that the num­ber of cases of har­vest­ing had dou­bled in 2016-17.

“There are many ways the pub­lic can avoid fall­ing vic­tim to claims har­vest­ing and that in­cludes be­ing aware that the In­sur­ance Com­mis­sion will not call claimants with a prom­ise of a set mone­tary fig­ure,” Mr Black­man said. “Our staff will only call claimants to con­firm the lodge­ment of a claim and if they have cho­sen to ap­point a lawyer.

“The com­mis­sion does not re­lease per­sonal de­tails about claimants to third par­ties and only re­ceives in­for­ma­tion about a claimant via its on­line crash re­port­ing fa­cil­ity.”

Mr Black­man said the com­mis­sion was work­ing on the is­sue with Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion and “con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor this prac­tice closely”.

Con­cerns have also been raised about claims har­vest­ing in other States and coun­tries.

In NSW, there have been re­ported cases where “claims har­vesters” give the im­pres­sion they are lawyers. Once they have con­vinced the vic­tim to pro­vide per­sonal de­tails, in­for­ma­tion is sold to a third party, usu­ally a law firm.

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