That’s the view of Brisbane injury compensation law specialist Trent Johnson who says insurers have resurrected their old campaign to blame lawyers for the volume of CTP claims.
“Insurers want to scrap the state’s fault-based CTP payouts scheme and replace it with a so-called no-fault scheme – in other words, caps on payouts for injured claimants, which have proved disastrous for claimants in other states such as New South Wales,” he says.
Trent Johnson, a Director with Bennett & Philp Lawyers, says the issue is back in the news after insurers Suncorp and RACQ told a Queensland parliamentary committee that a no-fault compulsory third party (CTP) scheme is what Queensland needs if the state is to put a stop to the widespread practice of “claim farming”.
Suncorp and RACQ Insurance representatives told the Parliamentary Economics and Governance Committee that measures the Government has taken to stop claims farming are not enough.
Queensland lawyers have long argued that interstate law firms, not constrained by Queensland regulations, have been touting for claims work encouraging motorists involved in minor bingles to chase payouts through the courts.
The interstate law firms are not bound by the caps on the sums Queensland lawyers can charge for fees to pursue such smaller claims.
A Suncorp executive told the parliamentary committee the best way to disrupt claims farming is to remove the financial incentive provided by a lump sum payment model by introducing a no-fault, defined benefit CTP scheme.
Suncorp argues that under a no-fault, defined benefits scheme, the focus is on rehabilitation, not compensation.
Trent says the real agenda is the insurers want a focus on profits rather than compensation.
Last year when RACQ’s 2018 profits of $64.4 million were announced Trent Johnson said it should make them back off from their scaremongering calls to change Queensland’s CTP scheme.
The fact that RACQ’s profits jumped from $26.7 million in 2017 to $64.4 million for 2018 should be proof enough that Queensland’s CTP scheme does not need any change.”
“Sadly however all the insurers have done is wait a few months then trot out their scaremongering campaign again,” he says.
In 2017 the insurance industry, with RACQ to the fore, ran a campaign blaming lawyers for a spike in Queensland Compulsory Third Party insurance claims.
Trent says the Queensland CTP insurers have again carefully avoided addressing the view of the Insurance Commissioner, Neil Singleton of the Motor Accident Insurance Commission, which runs the Queensland CTP scheme, who last year said that Queensland road users continued to enjoy a strong and sustainable CTP insurance scheme.
“In terms of key scheme metrics, CTP insurance premiums remained stable, the incidence of claims fraud identified by insurers remained very low and market research surveys showed that motorists and claimants are satisfied with the scheme – overall, it is a positive story”, he reported.
Trent says nothing has changed in Queensland and the state’s CTP scheme remains in good financial health with Queensland having almost the cheapest CTP insurance (which forms a large portion of Queensland vehicle registration fees) in the country but, as in the past, Queensland CTP insurers are using media pressure to white-ant the scheme to fatten their already excessive profits.
“The insurers – once again – brand the legal profession as the greedy villains in this exercise to generate fear and loathing and bring pressure on the state government to change our CTP scheme. The simple fact is that our scheme is in very good financial health, and those injured claimants who are legally represented recover far more than those who choose to pursue a claim on their own.”
“It’s ironic because the CTP insurers conveniently disregard the independent review of the Queensland compulsory third-party insurance scheme delivered to the Motor Accident Insurance Commission in December 2016, which expressed concerns over the high level of profits consistently being made by the Queensland CTP insurers. They are hypocrites” he says.
Trent says whilst Queensland CTP insurers have every right to make a profit, they should not be allowed to continue unabated profiteering from the scheme whilst simultaneously calling for measures such as guaranteed defined benefits which would only further increase their profits and decrease damages paid to deserving, injured claimants.
The insurance industry is happy to take Queenslanders’ CTP premiums but fight claims and makes people jump through hoops for motor vehicle injury claims.”
“Insurance companies do not roll over with injury claims. Everything is a fight with them. Despite their public utterances, their agenda is purely self-serving and profit-driven, and they regard properly compensating injury victims as a profit liability,” Trent says.
Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).