Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Cedric Stephens | Salami-slicing claims tactics

Published:Sunday | April 2, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Some insurers use devious tactics to avoid paying insurance claims. In Jamaica, there are no rules outlawing salami-slicing claims negotiating tactics.

QUESTION: My father had an accident while driving my vehicle on March 24, 2015. He was in the process of making a right turn from one roadway into another. The other party overtook a line of vehicles that were directly behind my dad and which had slowed down in order to allow him to turn. The negligent party hit my vehicle, damaging its front right fender, suspension, bumper, and adjacent parts. My insurers sent me an email to the effect that the other party's insurance company would not take responsibility. The other driver said that my dad drove out from a side road into his car. I sent a photo and diagram to my insurers, who dispatched it to the other company. The third-party insurers now agree that their insured lied. It came as a great shock when my insurance company told me that they offered settlement with me taking 60 per cent of the blame and the other person 40 per cent. Can you please advise?


INSURANCE HELPLINE: The third-party insurer's action should be bawled out. They are worse than the commercial bank that tried to charge a fee for changing a $5,000 note into smaller units of currency.

Persons who wanted to engage in those kinds of transactions knew upfront what charges would be involved. They also had the choice of deciding whether the size of the fee amounted to more than the hassle of the large bill. You have no choice.

After waiting patiently for two years for the third-party insurer to conclude that the person who hit your car is a liar, the insurers are now offering you another slice of their devious claims tactics.

Information technology lawyers Richard Pryor & Associates - - explain that salami-slicing tactics are used in negotiations for five reasons. These are to control the process; put pressure on the other party; add new issues at will; reverse or change positions; and increase the prospects of a better outcome for the salami slicer.

"Salami slicing involves a process of dealing with issues one at a time ... a party that allows the salami-slicing process to be imposed on it may fail to achieve a deal much better than the salami stump," the lawyers explain.

The third-party insurers have been slicing the salami in relation to your claim since 2015. It began when they refused to take responsibility for the collision.

There are no rules in our insurance regulations that outlaw salami-slicing claims-negotiating tactics. Some insurance regulators in other countries require that insurers prepare operating manuals for their claims departments. These are tools that internal and external auditors and regulators use to check whether insurers are employing dubious practices to grow their profits and harm claimants like you.

Will this loophole be closed anytime soon? The answer is anybody's guess. The Financial Services Commission's insurance division has been operating without a head for many months.




Now that you understand the third-party insurer's game plan, what can you do about it? I suggest that you tell the third-party insurers that you researched the matter thoroughly. Refer them to Bartletts solicitors' website. It says: "Road users have

statutory duty of care to drive safely at all times, paying due care and attention to their own safety as well as that of other road users. When a driver intends to turn right ... he/she must make sure that it is safe to do so before commencing the manoeuvre. This means he/she should slow down on approaching the turn, indicate in good time, and check the wing mirrors and blind spot before carrying out the manoeuvre. When a driver ticks these three boxes before turning, he/she is performing a legitimate action, having paid due care and attention to the road conditions and should, therefore, not be liable if a reckless driver behind attempts to overtake, resulting in a collision."

Refer them to Cliff Hylton's The Jamaican Driver's Guide as well. It places primary responsibility for safe overtaking on the driver of the overtaking vehicle.

"Do not overtake unless you can do so without danger to other road users and yourself. Do not overtake at a pedestrian crossing, railway crossing, road junction, corner, or bend," the guide says.

If the onus is on the part of the driver of the overtaking vehicle to do so in a safe manner, and the other driver, your father, looked in his rear view mirror to make sure that it was safe before executing the turn, it makes absolutely no sense to blame your father for not seeing the other vehicle.

Furthermore, the driver of the overtaking vehicle was executing that manoeuvre while approaching a road junction - something that he ought to have known was unsafe to do.

Tell the third-party insurer to wheel and come [back] again with your cheque in hand.

- Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: