Imagine your house has just been storm damaged. You have insurance so you call the insurers, inform them you need to make a claim, and the process begins of an assessor showing up at your house, estimates being made of the financial cost of the damage, and usually, work is then authorised to repair your home.
Sounds simple enough ? and while there may be some bumps along the way, generally, your home will be repaired under the insurance policy, if it covers the damage.
You would expect nothing less ... paying into an insurance scheme for years, meticulously making sure the policy covered such instances, and making sure you were satisfied with your insurance company and that your policy would be there for you when you needed to depend on it.
Translate this to making a claim for damages against a lawyer though, and the whole claims process turns into a nightmare of corruption, deceit & anti consumerism. In fact, trying to make a claim for damages against a crooked lawyer turns so bad that figures reveal only 1% of financial claims for damages against lawyers even get access to a courtroom, never mind the chance of an actual payout from the much vaunted but usually absent "Master Policy Insurance" for Scotland's legal profession.
Trevor Goddard of Royal Sun Alliance & Law Society Chief Exec. Douglas Mill - 'Only 1% of claims against crooked lawyers ever get a chance'
The "Master Policy", sometimes known as the "Master Fund" has been touted by the Law Society of Scotland as giving "unrivalled consumer protection" for Scotland's enormous solicitor's client base, but in reality, payouts are very few & far between, particularly when it comes to the question of 'negligence' - which is so prevalent in Scotland's vast army of 10,000 solicitors, it almost equates to that 'storm damage' on your home insurance ...
If you thought there was only a 1% chance of you getting 'storm damage' to your home paid for by your insurance policy, or indeed, any other type of damage covered by your insurance policy, would you remain with that Insurer and keep paying for such an insurance policy which would never pay out ? ... Probably not. I know I wouldn't ...
You would rightly go somewhere else and find another insurer, as there would probably be such a high level of bad publicity against your current insurers who never pay out, you would know that blindly handing over money each year for an insurance policy which has a 1% chance of payout, would be a total waste of your money so, why would you use a solicitor whose insurance policy only has a 1% chance of paying you out when you find out your solicitor has ripped you off, or acted negligently, or worse, made off with your family's assets, even your home ?
Well, currently of course, the Scots public has no choice at all in this. Basically, if you want access to legal services, access to the courts, or access to a solicitor, you have to use a solicitor who is insured by the "Master Policy Insurance" of the Law Society of Scotland and if you have any problems with your solicitor which requires you to make a claim for damages against their insurance, you need to hire another solicitor who is also a member of that same insurance scheme.
Alistair Sim, Director Marsh UK (Brokers to the Master Insurance Policy) - You need a lawyer to sue a lawyer
A party asserting a claim cannot pursue his or her claim directly with the insurers of the Master Policy. It is for the solicitor concerned to intimate any claim to the Master Policy insurers and to request the benefit of the cover. In simple terms, the Master Policy insurers cannot become involved until the matter is intimated by the practice.
In any claim for alleged negligence, the party asserting the claim [the client] will require to establish :
- Whether a duty of care was owed
- Whether the duty has been breached, and how
- What loss has arisen as a direct result of the breach
For that reason, those pursuing claims against solicitors are advised to seek legal representation in pursuing claims.
As you can see from Marsh's own statement, supported by the Law Society of Scotland, an individual cannot pursue a claim directly with the insurers of Scotland's legal profession. You have to go through a lawyer, spend some more money, and hope against reality, that your new lawyer - if you are even able to get another lawyer to sue a lawyer, will actually do the job properly, and without any outside interference.
Sadly, outside interference, particularly from Law Society officials, is indeed the order of the day, as previous articles I have reported on the lawyers insurance scheme show quite clearly ...
Even worse for you, as the poor client who may have been financially ruined by your solicitors actions, you cannot even being the claims process until the lawyer who ruined you actually tells the insurers he suspects you may make a claim against their actions, and even after that, all the steps you have to go through in the "Master Policy" insurance must be conducted, at significant financial cost, by another firm of solicitors you have to find willing to take on the case.
Does any of this so far qualify for "unrivalled consumer protection" ? Probably not.
There is no doubt, the "Master Policy" insurance scheme for the Scottish legal profession is good at what it does best, which is - protecting crooked lawyers, keeping them in practice, and keeping payouts to wronged & ruined clients - you, to a minimum.
This is the sole aim of the "Master Policy" insurance - not to pay out when you need it, rather to ensure you don't get paid anything whatsoever - and there is a trail of thousands of ruined clients of crooked solicitors who have received not a penny from the "Master Policy" insurance, while their crooked lawyers have went on to remain in practice, even ripping off more clients.
Solicitor John O Donnell faces 21 separate negligence claims involving the same insurance scheme and he is still in practice - it could so easily be YOUR solicitor and you know nothing about it ...
Alistair Sim once said, there isn't a lawyer in Scotland who hasn't had a complaint & claim made against their insurance - and he would be correct.
You as the client don't get to know anything about that though .. . indeed, as the above link to an earlier story I covered shows, you could well find that your lawyer has as bad a record as Mr O'Donnell and is facing or has faced multiple claims by ruined clients made against his insurance, and no one has ever been paid out .. and there is no way you can truthfully find out whether that is the case or not ...
The way the "Master Policy" insurance scheme for Scotland's legal profession is sold to the public is under the guise of "unrivalled consumer protection" so let's take a brief look at what Marsh, the Brokers, and the Law Society of Scotland claim you get for your trust in your lawyer ...
Master Policy details - a crooked lawyer's charter, written by crooked lawyers, for the protection of crooked lawyers.
"The Master Policy provides cover for all practice units for the mandatory limit of indemnity - £1.5m. All claims attributable to the same act, error or omission or series of acts, errors or omissions consequently upon or attributable to the same original cause or source will be regarded as one claim., In the event of cover being required in excess of the mandatory limit of indemnity, additional Excess layer ("top-up") cover requires to be arranged which may be taken under the facility provided by the Society's Brokers.
The cover is wide and provides indemnity in respect of claims or alleged claims in respect of "any civil liability (including liability for claimant's costs and expenses) incurred in connection with the Practice ..." The definition of "the Practice" refers to "all manner of business ... which is customarily (but not necessarily exclusively) carried on or transacted by Solicitors in Scotland"."
An amazing claim by the insurers and the legal profession, but one hardly consistent with reality given the fact that a paltry 1% of claims only ever make it to payout ...
The Brokers information then amazingly goes on to claim that "The Master Policy also provides cover for dishonest, fraudulent, criminal or malicious acts or omissions involving clients funds on the part of a partner or member of the firm's staff. This cover in respect of clients funds does not apply if the act or omission was committed or condoned by a sole practitioner or by all principles of a partnership."
An equally further amazing claim by the Brokers, completely inconsistent with reality. Just try making a claim against the "Master Policy" for such things as dishonestly, fraud, criminal or malicious acts, and see if you get any further than the thousands of clients who have tried & failed over the years to make similar claims - only to be denied access to the very legal representation required to make such a claim - and thus denied access to justice.
Notification of Claims and Circumstances - or how to kill off a client's claim ...
Now we come to the real dirty tricks of the claims process ...
Notification of Claims and Circumstances
The Master Policy requires (General Condition 1 of the Certificate of Insurance) practice units to :-
"give written notice to the Brokers (regardless of any Self-Insured Amount) as soon as reasonably practicable after becoming aware of circumstances which might reasonable be expected to produce a claim irrespective of the [practice unit's] views as to the validity of the claim or on receiving information of a claim for which there may be a liability under [the] Certificate."
There is no claim form which requires to be completed in order to intimate a claim or circumstance. All that is required initially is a letter to the Brokers, explaining the factual background. Copies of relevant correspondence should be submitted along with any Legal Aid Application, Writ, or Summons.
If the preparation of a detailed summary of the facts or a statement by those involved is likely to delay matters, the practice should simply write to the Brokers in the first instance with brief particulars of the available information rather than delaying their intimation until more detailed information is available.
Where a Writ, Summons, or notice of a Legal Aid Application has been received, clearly the matter should be intimated immediately, with these items, in order that the insurers may take whatever action is required within the appropriate time limits.
No claim form .. imagine that ... nothing like your house or car insurance now, is it .. preferring to keep everything as convoluted & complicated as possible, ensuring a bare minimum of input from the financially ruined client but obtaining the solicitor's point of view, who obviously will be pleading 'not guilty' to their financial crimes against clients ...
I particularly liked the part about "Where a Writ, Summons, or notice of a Legal Aid Application has been received, clearly the matter should be intimated immediately ... in order that the insurers may take whatever action is required within the appropriate time limits."
Yes, we all know what "the insurers may take whatever action is required" means, and it's not just the insurers who do that - the Law Society of Scotland joins in too, to make sure that anything, even a client's claim for legal aid to begin such an insurance claim against a crooked lawyer is stopped
Douglas Mill [regularly] intervenes with the Legal Aid Board to stop client negligence claims against crooked lawyers
oh .. but Douglas Mill testified before the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament he never intervened in a legal aid claim against both the Law Society of Scotland and a crooked lawyer, which makes Mr Mill a liar in that case - and a liar which the Scottish Conservatives support in the Parliament via Bill Aitken, Convener of the Parliaments's only Justice Committee ...
Douglas Mill - 'I swear on my granny's grave I'm a liar'
So, not just having to be made do with the Law Society of Scotland's monopoly on the legal services market in Scotland, the Scots public are also forced to make do with a corrupt insurance compensation scheme which the lawyers claim is there to protect the public but which only protects lawyers from the public.
Surely such things are yet good arguments to open up the Scottish legal services market and come away from the hallmarks of monopoly, corruption, lack of accountability and anti client prejudice which have ruled the day for all these years ?
Wait a minute though ... the current Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill is a lawyer.
Mr MacAskill has paid for many years into the same "Master Policy" to protect himself from clients and ensure that if he did wrong, no one would get a penny so it's hardly surprising that Kenny MacAskill wants to preserve a large part of the Law Society's monopoly on legal services in Scotland and also the monopoly of the "Master Policy" insurance scheme which mandates that anyone who wants to practice legal services must pay into it ...
Indeed, Mr MacAskill and the Lord President - another financial contributor to the same "Master Policy" insurance scheme, have been happily dismissing any & all applications for rights of legal representation, made by persons & organisations other than members of the Law Society of Scotland, under the 2006 implementation of Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990, which was designed eighteen years ago to open up the Scottish legal services market and break the Law Society of Scotland monopoly on the public's access to justice.
Mr MacAskill and the Lord President have cited among their reasons for their dismissal of all applications for rights of legal representation to-date the applicants are not members of the same "Master Policy" insurance scheme which only sees a 1% chance of the public ever getting financial redress for the negligent or crooked actions of their legal representatives. Isn't that a bit strange ?
Kenny MacAskill - If you don't pay into the "Master Policy" and aren't a member of the Law Society, we won't let you practice legal services.
It doesn't stop there though ... the same "Master Policy" insurance for crooked lawyers is also costing the Scottish public a pretty penny as each of you have to food the bill for all of the Scottish Government's GLSS lawyers, who have their "Master Policy" annual subscriptions paid as an 'expense freebie' ... and indeed, many Government departments within the Scottish Government also contract the services of Marsh and similar corrupt insurance schemes which do everything to ensure protection of their departments at any cost while any member of the public who has been wronged or financially affected by negligent decisions, never gets a chance of financial compensation.
Some articles I filed earlier on the Scottish Government's affiliation with Marsh UK and the insurers of the legal profession's anti consumer "Master Policy"
A good example of some of the public sector's insurers & lawyers dirty tricks may well be the Hepatitis C infected blood products victims, many of whom have died over the years, and are still battling the Government and these kinds of corrupt insurance schemes for compensation and in that case, where patients Health records were allegedly destroyed, it turns out that many think the order those Health records were destroyed, came from the lawyers and insurers of those Health Boards who infected their patients with the tainted blood products ...
What a coincidence that destroying solicitor & client records and faking up files is also one of the policies of the "Master Policy" insurance for crooked lawyers ... which has permeated Government to the highest level with even Ministerial backing from the Justice Secretary ... and a seemingly happy support from the rest of the SNP Government so far ...
Justice or injustice ? The rights and expectations of the public are certainly being trampled by such corrupt 'consumer protection' practices which in reality are 'consumer attack' practices we can all do without ...
Should it not be that our SNP Scottish Government will end such 'consumer attack' practices immediately and give Scots first class legal services instead of second class rights against Scotland's crooked lawyers ?