If you are one of the 1.5 million Queenslanders who have been targeted by claim farmers, the good news is that a new proposed law will put an end to this practice.
What is claim farming?
Typically, someone from an overseas call centre will cold call and ask if you have recently been in a car accident. Some of these callers have no idea if you have or have not been in an accident. Others do know and their call is very much targeted. They might falsely say that they are from a law firm or an insurance company and will offer a quick and guaranteed settlement. (By the way, there is no such thing as a quick and guaranteed settlement.)
If you tell them that you have indeed been in a car accident, the caller will keep harassing you to get to your personal information. They will then sell this to a law firm for a fee. Or they might even make a fraudulent compensation claim without your knowledge.
Why is this a problem?
Once you engage with a claim farmer, you have no control of your personal information. It’s likely that your personal data will now be sold, and not just in relation to claim. People initially targeted by claim farmers reported receiving calls from other call centres selling unrelated products such as solar panels.
Another issue is that these claims would be viewed by insurance companies as potentially fraudulent. Insurance companies know those law firms who typically buy clients from claim farmers. So, the claim will only attract closer scrutiny.
What are the changes?
It would be illegal to cold call someone without their consent and solicit or induce them to make a CTP claim. Heavy penalties apply.
The new law will also make it unlawful to pay for a potential referral. As well, receiving payment for a potential referral will also be prohibited.
Lawyers will be required to certify that they have not paid a claim farmer
How effective is the proposed new law?
The critical issue will be enforcing the new rules. The Motor Accident Insurance Commission will be given very broad power to enforce the law. For example, it will be able to appoint an investigator to enquire into the affairs of a law practice, including inspecting documents and interviewing lawyers.
If the commission is serious about stamping out the practice of claim farmers, it seems as though they will now have the law, the powers and the penalties to achieve this purpose.
The Bigger Picture
These proposed changes, if enforced by the Commission, will no doubt have a positive effect.
However maybe it is time to look outside car compensation and consider if the laws regulating person injury services target the issues that really matter to everyday Queenslanders. For example, to date much effort has been spent on banning personal injuries ads. Still, you see personal injury firms advertise on billboards, radio and TV all the time. Some of these ads arguably fall within what is still permissible, but many probably do not. I fail to see what the point in banning personal injury ads when everyone knows what the service is being advertised anyway. I doubt there is a single person in Queensland who does not bring a personal injury claim because of these laws.
Yet there are issues that deserve much more attention, in particular people’s privacy. For example, if you have ever booked a GP appointment online, you might want to do a google search on how one of the booking apps was selling patient’s private information to a law firm – allegedly without their consent!
I would suggest that everyone is perfectly capable of deciding whether to bring a personal injury claim, and the Government should be more focused on protecting people privacy.