Here Paul reveals more about himself both professionally and personally.
An opportunity to give back and to help to shape/influence the landscape in which we work to the betterment of the accident victim. My firm is a founder member of the Society and I was at the inaugural meeting in Piccadilly, Manchester, 25+ years ago. It’s therefore in my blood. RTA law is under attack and has been for as long as I can remember. Insurers have the ear of Government and seem capable of shaping policy for their own financial benefit. Government appears blind to this self-interest. MASS is more important now than it has ever been. The very fabric of what the Society stands for is under threat.
Why the law?
I started in the insurance industry in 1986. There is a natural bridge between insurance and law. I loved the technical nature of the law I engaged with whilst in insurance, particularly litigation and civil procedure, so I travelled across the bridge. I never looked back. I wanted what I did to be about more than just a balance sheet or a case reserve. The thrill of maximising a client’s settlement when you know that extra £10,000 will make a significant difference is indescribable. How can that feeling compare with saving a wealthy, multi-national insurer a miniscule percentage of its turnover?
Best win in Court/most important win to date
Two cases stand out, both early in my career. The first involved an amazing lady who was catastrophically injured in an accident which resulted in her car catching fire. She lost her husband and all four of her limbs. I carried out key work which led to liability being proven. It’s exactly what I came to law from insurance to do. The second was a double fatal accident involving vehicles travelling in opposite directions, and colliding at the top of a hill, on the brow of a hill. Both cars were similarly coloured. Various witnesses were plainly confused about which vehicle was travelling in which direction. We knew the vehicle travelling south was at fault. Through diligent enquiries and painstaking evidence gathering, I proved my client’s direction of travel by establishing that she must have been driving towards her home when the crash occurred. I did this by demonstrating that her cats, which she adored, were fed, almost religiously, at the same time each day. The accident happened just before feeding time. When the Police gained access to the house later that evening, the cats had not been fed and had devoured a chicken which had been left out for dinner. The defendant insurer accepted that the client would not have been travelling away from her home at this time of day. I subsequently resisted calls to change my name to “Hercule Poirot”.
Thoughts on the implications of the Civil Liability Act
A feeling of impending doom that, without proper thought, understanding or consideration, the Government will introduce the most sweeping changes to RTA law in a generation. The impact of doing so will deny large swathes of society the opportunity to right and proper redress if they are injured in a road accident. The concept that a Litigant in Person will have both the capacity and wherewithal to diligently access and complete forms on an IT Portal is daft and preposterous. I am sure Government is fully aware of this. The removal of an arbitration type safety net from the original, proposed scheme further evidences Government’s lack of understanding or care for the public’s access to justice. Insurers do not have capacity of the training to sift through those claims which are made. They will routinely deny liability wherever possible, safe in the knowledge that only the most stoical and sophisticated of claimants will have the capacity to issue proceedings. There remains an opportunity to challenge the basis upon which the Act is based, and we must seize that opportunity.
What 3 items would you take to a desert island?
My phone (assuming WIFI!), a comfy pillow for the hammock and my wife (she might read this!). We all need to escape from the inevitable pressures of what we do, probably now more than ever. Time away from the commitment of work is the only way most of us can continue to achieve at the high levels we do, week in, week out.
What’s your claim to fame?
Never being caught? Actually, probably when my late father and I won the adult and junior table tennis competitions at the holiday camp we visited when I was around 10. I received a poxy rosette or similar, and he won a family holiday later in the year where he would compete in the national finals. Our local papers picked up the story but attributed the holiday win to me and included my picture. My father was less than impressed, but I was the school King Pin for weeks.
What’s the best and worst piece of advice you have ever received?
Best; in my early years, stretch myself financially. It was the early 90’s. Credit was becoming more easily available. I was advised to stretch to afford the mortgage I needed. By doing so I was able to buy a bigger house which appreciated in value better than a smaller property and set me on the property ladder. Worst; don’t bother to qualify, it won’t help your career. This was advice which suited the person who gave it, not me. It meant I never qualified and, whist this did not stifle my career, it could have done and I have always regretted it.
What would be your first question after waking up from being cryogenically frozen for 100 years?
Please tell me Boris isn’t still PM? Alternatively, I would probably want to know about all the technological advances I had missed. Look how far we have come in the past 100 years! Space travel, communications, health, life expectancy. Imagine where we might be 100 years from now? It’s fascinating and mind boggling in equal measure.
None. I am not religious, and I do not believe things happen for a reason. I don’t believe in karma or “you receive back what you give”. I believe in just being as true and honest as I can in everything I do.
Best ever holiday or place you have visited?
Place, Koh Samui, 25 years ago. Holiday, Italy (Rome) 2016. Koh Samui wasn’t as developed as it is now. Only single-story buildings were permitted. Parts of the island were deserted and uninhabited. Food was bought from shacks at the side of the road. It was so peaceful. I loved Rome. We had a beautiful villa about 30 minutes north of the capital. My two boys were young. Rome is a magical place. I love history. We had a great time (if you forget the hellish car hire hall at the airport!).
Fiat Strada 75 CL. (orange!). A truly terrible car, but it represented freedom and independence, so I will always cherish it.
Purple Rain/Prince. I loved Prince as I was growing up and was fortunate enough to see him play live at The O2 in London a few years before his death. For me his death was one of those “where were you when you heard” moments. I was in a hotel room, on my own, overlooking The O2 where I had watched him play. I cried.
I’m not a big reader and never have been. When I read I enjoy sporting autobiographies. I also enjoyed the Chris Evans autobiographies.
Best TV boxset or movie?
Just finished The Fall on Netflix. I can recite Pretty Woman almost line for line (should I have written that!). I love Gladiator, Carlito’s Way, Moana and, of course, Purple Rain. An eclectic mix.
Lucozade. I have a strange, almost addition to it. It must be responsible for much of my lockdown weight gain. I’m a beer fan and love champagne and English sparkling wine from my local Tinwood.
Well, this is so mood dependant, isn’t it? When out I love venison. At home I love feel good foods such as a lasagne or a cottage pie. If I’m being naughty, then pizza or fish and chips.
What is the first thing you like to do with your free time?
My children. 18 will sit his A-levels next summer and is an immense source of pride. 6 is commencing his football career and is as bright as a button. 3 has just started ballet lessons and is so cute she’s almost edible. I love sport and will watch almost anything live on TV. A good snuggle on the sofa with the Mrs and a good film/boxset is a must.
What annoys you?
Inconsiderate and selfish people. There’s no need for it. We all have to get along and that favour you’ve just refused, you will need at some point.
Thoughts on Brexit?
Stupid idea, akin to the Civil Liability Act. The consequences will only be understood and felt once it’s too late (don’t get me started).
This article first appeared in MASS Insight Magazine, Autumn 2020
Paul Lewis is a Partner at George Ide LLP in Chichester