A civil servant who was hounded by insurers just hours after being injured in a car crash to accept £1,000 for her injuries when it was worth five times that sum has warned others not to get conned into settling before they get independent advice.

And she condemned the insurance industry for “ambulance chasing” after personal injury claims.

The 40-year-old from Sunderland was offered the cash by the Royal and Sun Alliance (RSA) - the other driver’s insurer – less than 24 hours after the accident when the full extent of her injuries still weren’t known.

Third party insurers contacted injured lady direct

RSA first called the HM Revenue and Customs worker on the day of the crash in February 2009 to admit liability on behalf of their policy holder.

They then rang three times the following day – first at 9.30am to offer £1,000, half an hour later to confirm the offer and at 4.30pm to ask if she would accept it. She was not informed by the company at any time that she should seek independent legal advice.

When the RSA called again on the Monday morning, the PCS member had been in contact with her trade union lawyers Thompsons Solicitors for advice and told them to make any offers to her lawyer.

Claim settled for five times the amount of original offer

Following the accident she was initially in a state of shock and unaware of just how severe her injuries were. She ended up being off work for two months and with the help of independent legal and medical opinion her claim eventually settled for £5,000 – five times more than the RSA tried to persuade her to accept.

She said: “I’d never been involved in a car accident before so I had no idea what to expect. Being hit by another car is really frightening then there was the pain and the worry about the car and whether I could cope with work. The last thing on my mind was compensation.

“When the RSA kept ringing me I felt really harassed. I was going to accept the money just to get them off my back. I couldn’t believe it when they tried to contact my family members too. That is just blatant ambulance chasing.”

Thompsons Solicitors made personal injury claim

Fortunately her friend had attended a union meeting where Mick Laffey, from Thompsons Solicitors was talking about the union’s legal services.

Her friend advised her to contact the PCS for advice. The union instructed Thompsons to represent her.

Mr Laffey said: “The behaviour of the RSA shows what the insurance industry mean when they go on about settling claims quickly, it is blatant harassment of people who are still in a state of shock. The insurers say that people get more money if they deal with insurers direct and this experience shows what rubbish that is.

Injured people should seek independent legal advice

The RSA should have informed her that she was entitled to independent legal advice before considering any offer but they didn’t."

Phil Madelin, PCS legal officer, said: “It’s atrocious that our member was hounded by these insurers during a time when she was particularly vulnerable. This is an appalling example of an insurer behaving like an ambulance chasing claims company. They chased a claim to try to get a quick settlement and to stop a vulnerable injured person from getting the compensation their claim was worth.

“We would urge all our members to use our free legal service if they are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car accident.”