Hello again, John here.
Ambulance chasers and claims farmers are terms that most people had never heard of on this side of the pond, at least perhaps not until the last 10 years or so.
Now we’ve all heard of them. We associate them with the murky world of slightly disreputable, perhaps even dishonest, claim making. Those claims are usually for injury compensation and are often encouraged by sharp lawyers or, in truth more often by unqualified marketing folk dressed up as lawyers who just sell claim details on. From what I can find out, the expressions existed as commonly used terms in America long before we had heard of them.
Why is that?
In America there used to be at least two very big differences in how legal claims were run.
First of all, there was no ban on lawyers advertising for clients. In the land of opportunity they have been used to dodgy TV ads from lawyers, or people pretending to be lawyers and selling work on, for generations. Over here, we had a rather quaint ban on all of that until relatively recently. It was felt that lawyers were a profession, like doctors, and so they had “clients” who found the lawyer by word of mouth or by recommendation and not through “beastly advertising”. They were very much “clients” and not “customers” or, worse still, “punters”.
Secondly, US lawyers have been paid by results for generations. They invented no win no fee, so the hungry (or is that greedy) lawyer really, really wanted to win at all costs. We didn’t have that either until relatively recently. Over here, if you were rich enough you paid your lawyer, whether or not you won. If you were poor, we had legal aid.
So what’s changed and why do we now have to put up with these odious ambulance chasers and claims farmers invading our television screens and sending us nuisance texts?
Firstly, the advertising ban was removed. It was regarded as anti-competitive and so it went. The net result was a free for all and, very soon, the advent of the cheesy adverts that have increased in frequency. It also meant that non-lawyers like the real ambulance chasers and claims farmers spotted an opportunity. Lawyers aren’t great at promoting or marketing themselves. As a group we are generally a dull, staid bunch and so non-lawyer marketing types started to run rings round us. This meant that there was an unintended consequence; claims farmers pretended to be lawyers, hooked and took peoples’ details for claims and then sold them on to the lawyers. The claims farmers and ambulance chasers were and are pointless and unnecessary “middle men”.
Secondly, legal aid went. It was withdrawn for injury claims. The Governments (both Conservative and Labour had a part in this) worried that removing legal aid meant ordinary folk were unable to claim because they didn’t have the money to pay a lawyer. They solved that by introducing payment by results; no win, no fee. If it was a decent claim the lawyer would take it on at no risk to the claimant.
So we have sleepwalked into the current situation that from my point of view here inside “the trade” is pretty disastrous as an outcome.
We now have a distasteful frenzy of sometimes made up claims whipped up by middle men claims farmers and ambulance chasers who hook folk in, sell them to lawyers and scarper. Lost in the midst of this is the quiet majority of good, honest people with genuine claims who have been genuinely wronged and are entitled to seek justice. How on earth do they navigate the chaotic claims battlefield that is left?
My firm view is that individuals ought to go back to what worked in the past and what they trust.
How? Try this:
- Refuse to use a middle man (ask them if they personally are a Solicitor)
- Don’t rely on or trust adverts – be proactive, not reactive
- Go with someone you know if you are lucky enough to know a good Solicitor, otherwise get a personal recommendation from someone you trust
- If you don’t know a Solicitor and no-one can recommend one, do some research and go to someone with high ideals, who will treat you as an individual and has high standards (like us)
As we keep saying, over 70% of our clients have come to us because they know and like us or because they have been recommended to us by someone they trust. It’s old fashioned in some ways, but it works.
In a line, use someone normal who you can trust!
All the best for now,