Report raises spectre that dishonest Autofocus basic hire rate practices still exist

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A report commissioned by Accident Exchange has reignited concerns over the manner in which defendant solicitors provide evidence of Basic Hire Rates in disputed car accidents.

Accident Exchange reviewed 196 witness statements made by a number of different rate experts which were filed by defendant solicitors over a 120-day period from June 10 to October 8, 2015. It found that the evidence submitted in 61% of the cases had been thrown into question. The report also suggests that the figure could “just be the tip of the iceberg”.

The company says that its research has also proved that six years after the multi-million pound Autofocus fraud in 2009, the same mistakes are apparently still being made when it comes to vehicle rental rates.

According to the report, in 3% of cases investigated, it was identified that critical elements relating to the basic hire rate evidence served were actively suppressed with the likelihood that, as a result, the innocent motorist would have been denied 50% of the true value of his or her claim.

In 42% of cases, the evidence relied on information purportedly obtained by a telephone call made by the rate expert but less than 5% of call recordings were made available by the defendant solicitor, three of whom seemed particularly determined not to allow the recordings to be scrutinised at all.

Solicitors have a clear and unarguable obligation to the court. They have to ensure that evidence they put in front of a judge is honest and truthful especially when they have commissioned and paid for the evidence,” explained Steve Evans, the chief executive of Automotive & Insurance Solutions Group which owns Accident Exchange.

The investigation suggests that, in the majority of cases, they have either performed no meaningful check as to whether the evidence was wholly and completely honest or they are reckless as to whether it is.”

He added that in many cases, the evidence was so tainted that it was highly likely to mislead the trial judge.

“In 2009, the post mortem following the Autofocus fraud showed the same pattern of behaviour,” said Evans.

“Then, solicitors claimed they could never have imagined the deceit being perpetrated in the name of their insurer clients. Six years later, they need to reflect on the lessons learned, recognise that their primary obligation is to the court and take ownership of the paid for evidence they are staking their insurer client’s reputations on.”

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Marek Handzel

Marek Handzel is the editor of Claims Magazine. Marek welcomes articles, letters, or feedback from readers and can be reached by emailing marek.handzel@barkerbrooks.co.uk