It has emerged that Asons Solicitors has agreed to repay more than £100,000 to AXA after conceding that it has charged inflated legal costs in association with 65 personal injury cases that were settled between September 2013 and December 2014.
According to Legal Futures, the claimant firm, which is based in Bolton, overstated the qualifications and experience of its legal staff to falsely inflate the bills sent to AXA.
AXA said it realised what the firm was doing in July 2015 following a case in Manchester County Court, where Asons claimed that the fee-earner working the case had more than six years of litigation experience. The insurer subsequently found out that the fee earner had less than two years’ experience. Asons blamed an administrative error for the aberration, but the court sanctioned the firm for misconduct. AXA then reviewed a number of cost claims involving the law firm and identifying the 65 cases.
Asons has agreed to pay AXA more than £40,000 in legal costs as well as some £70,000 in damages and interest.
In a statement, AXA said: “Asons admitted that they were systematically attempting to present false and misleading information on an organised basis to exaggerate their claim for costs, but Asons denied acting fraudulently.”
The news comes on the back of revelations earlier this year that the firm had secured a £300,000 grant from Bolton Council to upgrade its offices after allegedly threatening to move the business elsewhere.
In response, Legal Futures quoted Asons as saying: “We take matters like this very seriously. Following a complaint by AXA, an internal investigation was immediately undertaken. We reported the matter to our regulator and any overpayments were returned. New procedures were instigated and we are satisfied that there has been no recurrence of the historical issues raised by AXA.”
Gian Luigi di Franco, claims manager at AXA said: “This is just the kind of behaviour that the insurance industry has been highlighting for years now, behaviour that is fuelling a compensation culture across the country.
“This was a systematic attempt to secure funds that Asons ought to have known they were not entitled to. We hope and expect that this victory sends a strong message to those in the claimant lawyer fraternity who would undermine the reputation of and trust in their profession purely in the pursuit of money.”