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The Keoghs fraud rings and advocacy teams have helped Kent police to bring down a motor fraud ring spearheaded by a human trafficker, saving insurers an estimated £3.5 million.

Mohammed Sangak was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to defraud insurance companies and eight years for people trafficking following a five-week trial.

He was behind Essex Claims, which was investigated for 76 road traffic collisions and 322 intimated damages claims, 318 of which were defeated.

Keoghs formed Operation Mets in 2011 following the identification of 25 linked claims involving staged accidents and Essex Claims.

With the law firm’s investigation ongoing, a police operation investigating human trafficker Sangak uncovered documents depicting the details of supposed road traffic accidents, as well as photocopied identity documents relating to people involved in the accident claims, with further investigations revealing strong links between Sangak and Essex Claims.

Following the trial wins, senior barrister, Mark Stanger said: “To a large extent the smooth litigation process and positive outcomes were down to the joined-up approach of the Keoghs fraud rings and advocacy teams. This continuity ensured that upon the trials being twice adjourned by the court, there was no reduction in the quality of the defence and any duplication of costs was minimised.”

“Indeed, the sheer size and complexity of Operation Mets presented a real case management challenge, with the hard work of Stuart McFadyen helping ensure the trials were dealt with inside the one day time limit.”

Stuart McFadyen, senior litigator at Keoghs, added: “The trial wins were a fantastic culmination of what was an extremely complex, intelligence-led investigation. The fact that nearly 99% of the claims we investigated were defeated demonstrates the value of having accurate data and intelligence available to us. This not only helped us focus our time and effort where it was most effective, it also helped us minimise the costs for our insurer clients and, in turn, their customers.”

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Law firm Moore Blatch has added medical professional and neuro-trauma specialist Claire Salisbury to its major trauma service.

The major trauma service has developed to include the position of rehab coordinator, which Salisbury will fill to supplement the legal team’s existing knowledge and support clients who have sustained a major trauma through their rehabilitation and recovery.

Salisbury’s experience includes working as principal therapist for major trauma, including neuro-trauma, at St. George’s Hospital in London.

The creation of this new role follows analysis by Moore Blatch’s major trauma team that identified gaps in the rehabilitation provision for victims within the claims process, including under the Motor Insurers’ Bureau Untraced Driver’s Agreement and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority scheme.

More than 73% of Moore Blatch’s major trauma clients receive rehabilitation support under the Rehabilitation Code 2015 and the rehab coordinator role will ensure that the firm’s capability in this area is more extensive and consistent, irrespective of injury or claim type.

In her role, Salisbury will provide a number of services to Moore Blatch clients, including personalised support for families seeking to understand how the legal and rehab processes work together.

She will also supports clients through their rehabilitation and recovery, encouraging information sharing between clinicians, and liaising with case managers to ensure rehab and therapy assessments are fit for purpose.

Salisbury commented: “I am delighted to be joining the industry’s leading major trauma service. Having worked closely with the team during my time at St. George’s I know first-hand how important legal assistance is to victims who have suffered a major trauma.”

“Patients often ignore legal pathways, not fully understanding the support it can provide and I am pleased to be a further source of support for Moore Blatch’s clients, signposting services from the beginning to aid their long-term recovery.”

Trevor Sterling, partner for medical relations at Moore Blatch, said: “We are delighted to have Claire join our major trauma service. At Moore Blatch, we pride ourselves on providing major trauma victims with the rehabilitation and recovery support they require, improving medical outcomes and quality of life.”

“Claire’s role will ensure that our great team continues to provide unparalleled rehabilitative care and support for victims of catastrophic injuries, perfectly bridging the gap between solicitors, the NHS and the private sector to optimise our clients’ recovery.”

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Smart energy device maker Geo has launched a new solution to detect and deal with risks of water damage.

The connected water damage prevention system, Waterlock, promises to significantly reduce the risk and cost of water damage in the home following a leak or burst pipe, by detecting standing water, excess humidity and freezing conditions.

The device provides a remote control for the home’s mains water stopcock, via the Waterlock app or a wireless switch, and can automatically detect and shut-off the home’s mains water in the event of a risk.

Geo and property underwriting agency Inet3 launched Waterlock at the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) Conference earlier this week.

Catherine Bell, chairman of Inet3, commented: “Water damage is the largest single risk and cause of damage claims in the insurance industry. Waterlock promises to offer a revolutionary solution to this issue, and the opportunity to reduce the premiums for homes that have the system installed.”

Commenting on the launch, Andy Thornley, head of corporate affairs at BIBA, said: “Waterlock is a great example of how innovation can reduce the significant impact of escape of water claims and help protect vulnerable customers by having the ability to turn off the domestic water supply remotely or when a leak is detected—reducing the damage that can be caused.

“Escape of water forms the largest component of household insurance claims and it’s clear to see how innovations like Waterlock can help the insurance industry and its customers. That’s why we were delighted to feature it as a case study in the 2018 BIBA Manifesto.”

“There are some obvious cost and hassle saving benefits to consumers using Waterlock,” added Patrick Caiger-Smith, CEO at Geo. “However, we have also designed the solution very much with the insurance industry in mind. The continuous connected risk assessment and data gathering that goes hand in hand with Waterlock means that the incidence of damage from water loss is vastly reduced. This, in turn should reduce risk for the insurer and lower premiums for the customer.”

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The Justice Select Committee has criticised the upcoming increases in the small claims limit for personal injury and road traffic accident claims.

Chair Bob Neill MP said the committee shares “strong concerns” that the increases, from £1,000 to £2,000 for personal injury and to £5,000 for road traffic accident claims, will impede access to justice.

The small claims limit increases form part of the whiplash reform package that the government is pursuing to clamp down on the so-called ‘compensation culture’. They are separate from the Civil Liability Bill and will be brought in via secondary legislation.

The Justice Select Committee is concerned that the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) electronic platform could fall short of creating a claims process that guarantees “unimpeded access to the courts”—a principle confirmed by the Supreme Court in a recent case.

Neill said: “Access to justice, including the right of access to the courts, is a cornerstone of the rule of law but these reforms risk putting that right in doubt. We share strong concerns that were raised during our inquiry on this issue, including concerns about the financial and procedural barriers that claimants might face.”

“The Ministry of Justice has made some welcome moves to develop the electronic platform to compensate for claimants’ anticipated lack of legal representation. However, we remain to be convinced that this will be effective or sufficient. This is a vitally important point of principle on which the Government should reflect.”

“The small claims limit for personal injury should not be increased unless ministers can explain how it will make sure that access to justice is not affected.”

In a letter to peers ahead of the Civil Liability Bill entering the committee stage in the House of Lords, MoJ spokesperson Lord Keen doubled down on ministers’ view that claimants using the small claims court may not necessarily require legal representation, and said that those who wish to “seek some other form of help or representation” will benefit from a competitive and adaptable legal sector.

Michael Warren, managing director of Minster Law, commented: “The committee’s conclusions are a powerful endorsement of our view that the government’s personal injury reform agenda is poorly thought through.”

“The MPs are especially concerned about the impact on claimants, and we have said all through that the government’s first priority is to guarantee that genuinely injured people are properly served by the justice system.”

Association of Personal Injury Lawyers president Brett Dixon said: “Finally, someone has taken notice of the needs and vulnerability of injured people. To those of us working with injured people every day it has always been obvious that it is callous to force an injured claimant to go up against an experienced defendant and either shoulder the costs, or go without.”

“This is what we’ve said to the government time and time again. It must respect the committee’s conclusions about upholding access to justice.”

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Clyde & Co’s specialist fraud team has pioneered a new process with the insurance industry that capitalises on the previously little-used Section 57 of the Criminal Justice Act to ensure exaggerated personal injury claims are dismissed before coming to trial.

The firm has successfully used the process to have 18 cases dismissed or discontinued in 2017/18, generating savings of £2.2 million, excluding recoveries from dishonest claimants that totalled a further £80,000. The time taken to manage these litigated large loss cases was reduced to 12 months.

Commenting on the success of the project, partner Damian Rourke, specialist fraud team lead at Clyde & Co, said: “Exaggerated casualty claims threaten the efficient running of a sustainable insurance market. Our goal is to help insurers force claims to be pleaded accurately and thereby reduce leakage, which drives up costs for insurers, and ultimately insureds.”

Under Section 57 of the Criminal Justice Act, where dishonest exaggeration is proved, the claimant can lose not only the exaggerated elements of the claim but also the genuine elements and any entitlement to costs.

The claimant is also required to pay the defendant’s costs. The statute was specifically enacted to deal with claimants that exaggerate injuries and ensure that claims are brought accurately.

Rourke added: “Our process map and the additional tools we have developed to supplement it form an extraordinarily powerful weapon against high value, exaggerated claims. We’re very much looking forward to playing our part in helping develop the industry’s strategic response to the problem of exaggerated/dishonest claims.”

“We have had very good buy in from one of our key clients and are now looking forward to rolling this out to the rest of the industry.”

Clyde & Co, meanwhile, has obtained what it believes to be the single highest award of exemplary damages made in a motor fraud case in the UK.

Acting on behalf of motor insurer Admiral, Clyde & Co’s team obtained £70,000 in damages against Barnet-based accident management company MS Globenet (trading as ACE) and its director for 20 cases of fraudulent claims worth up to £2.5 million.

Commenting on the case, Susan Evans, head of counter fraud at Admiral, said: “These claims were part of a concerted effort by a number of individuals to defraud motor insurers across the industry. From an early stage we worked closely with Clyde & Co to fight the claims presented to Admiral and had significant success.”

“However, we felt it was important not let those who stood to profit from the fraud to walk away without being held to account. Therefore, we hope that the large award made in this case will serve as a deterrent to those thinking of committing fraud.”

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XL Catlin has appointed Brent Hoffman as is global head of claims.

Hoffman will report to Paul Jardine, XL Catlin’s chief experience officer. Hoffman joined XL in 2014 and most recently held the position of general counsel for global claims, with a place on the claims leadership team.

In his new role, claims will be responsible for leading claims teams across XL Catlin’s insurance and reinsurance operations.

Commenting, Greg Hendrick, president of property and casualty insurance and reinsurance, said: “Brent’s promotion is testament to the bench strength we have in our claims team. His experience and knowledge ideally positions him to lead our claims function of more than 700 colleagues based in 24 countries worldwide.”

“Under Brent’s leadership I am confident that we will continue to be recognised by our clients and brokers for the outstanding claims service we provide every day.”

Before joining XL Catlin, Hoffman was with The Hartford for more than 12 years, where he held various in-house attorney positions in addition to a vice president role in the company’s claim department, with responsibility for managing claim groups in the US and UK.

Hoffman started his career in private practice, working at both Bingham McCutchen and Saul Ewing.

AXA is pressing ahead with its acquisition of XL Group for $15.3 billion (€12.4 billion), a deal that will create the biggest global property and casualty commercial insurer in the world.

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Potholes are costing drivers and their insurers at least £1 million per month due to massive car repair bills, according to the AA.

Based on the AA’s share of the car insurance market, the broker estimates that there have been more than 4,200 claims for pothole damage so far this year in the UK. With an estimated average repair bill of around £1,000, that comes to £4.2 million, or more than £1 million per month.

The AA said it has seen almost three times more pothole-related car insurance claims so far this year than it did over the same period in 2017, and the number of pothole claims made to the AA during the first four months of 2018 is more than for the whole of 2017.

On top of that, the number of breakdown call-outs for AA patrols to provide assistance following pothole damage has doubled.

Janet Connor, director of AA Insurance, commented: “In most cases the damage caused by a pothole, such as a ruined tyre or two and perhaps a wheel rim, doesn’t justify making an insurance claim, due to the policy excess and the potential loss of your no claims discount. So the claims we are seeing are clearly much worse than that.”

“Drivers are hitting potholes and ruining their suspension, steering, the underbody of the car or axles, and are occasionally being knocked off course and hitting other vehicles, kerbs or a lamp posts.”

“This year we’re seeing a growing number of pothole claims described as ‘car severely damaged and undriveable’, which didn’t happen at all last year.”

“The pothole epidemic has become nothing short of a national disgrace.”

To highlight the need to invest in reversing the deterioration of the UK’s roads, the AA has launched the #FlagitFunditFillit campaign.

Connor said: “Potholes can appear almost overnight and it’s really important to ‘flag it’ to the highway authority responsible so that they’re aware it exists. Councils have a statutory defence against paying out compensation for damaged cars if they’re not aware of a pothole. I would call on drivers to safely photograph the potholes they encounter and send them to the responsible highway authority and the Department for Transport by social media, to show them the extent of the pothole problem.”

“We’re also calling on the government to ‘fund it’ by ring-fencing 2p per litre of current fuel duty to create a £1 billion pothole fund, specifically for local councils so they can get on top of their pothole problem.”

“With that funding, councils can then ‘fill it’ and make their local roads safe for all road users, whether on four wheels, two, or on foot. That way compensation payments, which could otherwise be used to keep roads in good repair, should dramatically fall.”

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The corporate claims team at Eversheds Sutherland continues to grow with the appointment of Louise Bland, who joins Nicola Lashmar and Paul Coppin as a partner.

Bland specialises in seven figure injury claims and complex disputes including indemnity and coverage issues.

Nicola Lashmar, head of corporate claims at Eversheds Sutherland, commented: “We are really pleased that Louise is able to join us. As we continue to expand our practice to match the global nature of our client’s businesses, Louise’s skills and experience of high value, complex defence litigation will be an asset to the firm.”

Commenting on her appointment, Bland added: “I’m thrilled to be joining Eversheds Sutherland. The firm’s global litigation practice has a dynamic and clear approach to servicing its clients. I look forward to working with the team.”

The corporate claims team at Eversheds Sutherland handles the defence of all types of claims including group actions, gas explosions, aviation disasters, claims arising as a result of chemical poisoning or defective products, disease claims such as asbestos and stress at work, manufacturing accidents, and medical negligence.

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Sedgwick Claims Management Services has made further senior leadership appointments for its UK business following its acquisition of Cunningham Lindsey.

They follow the recent appointment of Stewart Steel as Sedgwick’s CEO for the UK.

Mark Henderson, former director of projects and risk and compliance at Cunningham Lindsey UK, has been appointed UK head of projects, risk and compliance of Sedgwick.

Jon Sutton, former financial director of Cunningham Lindsey UK, has been appointed as Sedgwick’s chief financial officer for the UK.

Sedgwick has also confirmed the leaders of its new operational structure for the UK business, including Adrian Cartwright-Bain as leader of the commercial division, Neil Gibson as leader of the private clients and liability divisions, and Jane Lewis as leader of its tailored solutions division.

Steel said: “I am immensely proud to have the responsibility of leading Sedgwick’s UK business and am confident the new team and its focus on growth and service excellence will provide Sedgwick a strong foundation for future growth.”

“We are embarking on a new era as we look to combine two fantastic businesses that are rich in tradition, experience and expertise and bring them together under the Sedgwick banner.”

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The likely cause of the incident in which an Uber autonomous car struck and killed a pedestrian in the US State of Arizona was a software reaction failure, according to reports.

The car was travelling at 40mph in autonomous mode when it collided with the woman in March. She later died from her injuries.

The Information has reported that the car’s sensors detected the woman as she pushed her bicycle across the road, but the software that manages reactions was tuned too far toward false positives, or objects such as litter, which can be ignored.

Uber suspended its autonomous vehicle testing programme in the US state following the incident, and reportedly settled with the victim’s family out of court.

Uber and the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the incident.

In a statement, Uber said: “We’re actively cooperating with the NTSB in their investigation. Out of respect for that process and the trust we’ve built with NTSB, we can’t comment on the specifics of the incident.”

“In the meantime, we have initiated a top-to-bottom safety review of our self-driving vehicles programme, and we have brought on former NTSB chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture. Our review is looking at everything from the safety of our system to our training processes for vehicle operators, and we hope to have more to say soon.”

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