Regulations about to come into force will offer greater protection for those who are left vulnerable after an accident and should spell the end for unscrupulous claims farmers, it was claimed today.
However a leading personal injury lawyer has warned that the regulations should be closely monitored to ensure they offer claimants appropriate protection.
Clare Burnell, a specialist at leading Black Country firm Higgs & Sons, believes the recently published Compensation Bill goes a long way to improve things.
She said: "The regulations, which will be policed by the Department of Constitutional Affairs, aim to ensure that the consumer is protected against the minefield of contractual obligations that can be presented to them, if they choose to instruct a claims management company (CMC).
"However, there are concerns from lawyers and other professional bodies that the regulation of claims farmers may lull the public into a false sense of security and their practices may be little improved beyond what they did before."
Claims farmers advertise widely to attract those who have been involved in an accident.
Ms Burnell alleged: "Whilst a claims farmer may appear genuine, helpful and concerned at someone's injury, in reality, a claimant pursuing their claim through a claims farmer may be placed on a production line with no professional regulation, often at the expense of his or her damages award.
"Accident victims can often be vulnerable and therefore easily persuaded by claims farmers to sign up to their bewildering agreements without having opportunity to consider the implications."
Ms Burnell, who is based at Higgs & Sons' Stourbridge office, added: "By contrast, a qualified solicitor who handles claims is strictly regulated by the Law Society."
The Compensation Bill is seeking to address the problem.
A code of practice and rules will be enforced against CMCs and complaints made or reported breaches of those rules may lead to the CMC having restrictions on its trade, suspension or indeed cancellation of its authorisation.
The concern is that some CMC's may be able to circumvent this.
Senior partner at Higgs and head of the personal injury team, Ian Shovlin, said: "It is crucial that accident victims are protected from those claims farmers whose sole intention is to take their claim and leave claimants with very little of their own compensation, effectively making them a victim twice over.
"It is hoped that these regulations will now ensure that a level playing field is achieved for the fair handling of personal injury claims - preferably by professional lawyers."