Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sometimes, just maybe, there is a god...

Now I'm the first to admit that I'm, occasionally, cynical about religion, I sometimes take time to mock those who "Believe" and I often question the theory of an old man with a beard floating on a cloud controlling a few billion lives like a huge scalextric game.

But just occasionally things happen that make you stop and think.

Sometimes a payback time happens and its so well organised that you wonder if the old man in the clouds decided to sort it out.

Yesterday a man by the name of Mark Langford died in a car crash in Marbella in Spain - and I think god did it.

Mark Langford was the founder of the UK company The Accident Group (TAG), our very first very public ambulance chaser in a very USA stylee, although int he USA they've been doing it much longer than us.

Ten years ago if you tripped up over a loose paving stone anywhere in the UK you quickly looked around to see if anyone had witnessed your own stupidity, brushed yourself down and scurried away with a red face.

After the advent of Mark Langfords Accident Group, if you tripped up over a loose paving stone you quickly looked around to see if anyone had witnessed your terrible misfortune that inevitably would lead to such debilitating injuries, took down their names and addresses and contacted TAG to commence legal proceedings for a half million pounds against your local council.

But TAG were more inventive than that, after a while they realised that they couldn't afford to wait around for people to trip over paving stones, time was money and people were not stupid enough to trip over paving stones every day of the week - so they invented stupid people.

The problem was that TAG weren't regulated by anyone, they had invented a new category of middleman where they simply referred their cases to a panel of solicitors - on the one hand they had the solicitors working for their clients and on the other hand they sold some rather expensive insurance policies to their clients in order to cover the costs of the legal work - the solicitors and insurers were heavily regulated, but the new middlemen weren't, and they could do anything they liked to generate more business for themselves.

A BBC programme investigated the working of the new ambulance chasers and found that they were employing very high pressure sales reps to generate new business paying good rates of commission to them to bring new idiots into the claimant process - most of the claimants that they found were family members or neighbours and some individuals were found to have submitted up to 60 or 70 claims in a very short space of time - investigators estimated that up to 30% of all claims handled by TAG were invented and fraudulent.

In one famous incident a bus in Manchester had a small accident one day and the very next day a team of TAG salespeople were out on the street looking for people who had been on the bus who would be looking to claim for injuries - they were succesful and found around 20 such people all of whom were suffering from whiplash, knee injuries and all sorts of good stuff that would keep the courts busy for months - until the bus company's insurers investigated the claim and found that the bus was out of service and on its way back to the depot when the accident happened, the only person on the bus at the time was the driver, and he was uninjured.

After the BBC revelations the insurance industry tightened its grip on the likes of TAG and gullible members of the public who thought they were in for massive payouts if only they'd buy this £1000 legal costs insurance policy grew wise about salesmen knocking on their door asking if they'd like to claim for that broken leg that they hadn't sustained on the loose paving stone outside their house.

The company folded in May 2003 and famously informed its 2500 employees by text that they were dismissed - the directors of the company were eventually barred from holding such office again and Mark Langford relocated to the area around Marbella that is host to many of the UK's millionairres, not all of whom have gained their wealth by honest means, so he fit right in there then.

He was being pursued by HM Inland Revenue for a £1.5million unpaid tax bill at the time of his accident which will inevitably lead to a few conspiracy theory's as well as a nice insurance claim, maybe his family know of a good claims lawyer who could handle it for them ?

Sometimes god can be an ironic bas'tad.

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