In a country which is regarded as the whiplash injury capital of Europe, this story caught my eye the other day. It seems to show our legal profession in it’s true colours.
Andrew Hopper was involved in a minor shunt in July 2010 whilst he was waiting at a roundabout. The drivers exchanged details, Hopper had a stiff neck for a couple of days and then thought no more about it. It will come as no surprise to you to learn that a few days later he started receiving unsolicited calls from ambulance chasing lawyers.
Initially, he was polite, declined their services and if they persisted then he put the phone down. This didn’t work and he kept getting several calls a days for months to follow. After SIXTEEN months he finally cracked in November 2011 when, in the midst of money troubles, they hit him with the killer line “There’s a cheque here for £3,000 with your name on it!”
As a keen rugby player, Hopper was used to ignoring minor injuries, but the salesman even turned that round by telling him he was probably less aware of his problem because of this. It was an irresistible sales pitch, and he caved in.
In January 2012, he was asked to attend a GP for assessment but my this time any lingering pain was long gone. Being unprepared to lie to a doctor and pursue what was a bogus claim, he withdrew from the process.
The response from our esteemed legal eagles? They said that as he had backed out he was liable for their costs and sent him a bill for £1,140.
Mr Hopper says: ‘I was coerced by a skilled, very plausible individual to bring a whiplash claim. I succumbed to their promises in a weak moment. When I fully reflected that I probably didn’t have any effects of whiplash, I refused to go along with it and decided to tell the truth. I have fallen foul of a rotten claims culture which does nothing to rectify its wrongs. I have been stitched up and could be royally ripped off by a sordid, disreputable process.’
Since he signed a ‘no-win, no-fee’ document, he is bound by contract law to pay for the services provided by his solicitor. He is contesting the bill and has asked for a breakdown of the costs. He will also argue he was unfairly pressed into taking up his claim.
So ‘no win, no fee’ in this case seems to translate into ‘no case, big fee’. Seems to me that it’s well past time for the government to step in and sort out this inherited American litigation culture once and for all?..