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The Telegraph's legal expert, Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons Solicitors weighs up the pros and cons of relying on an insurance company as opposed to a solicitor, to maximise your damages if you have an accident.

A friend of mine was recently involved in a road traffic accident. She was sitting at a set of traffic lights when another car drove into the back of her vehicle. She was shocked and had a very sore neck.

She swapped details with the other driver and then set about getting her car repaired and getting some medical treatment. At that time she had not given a thought to compensation.

The following day however she received a telephone call from the other driver's motor insurers. They said that they would like to meet with my friend to obtain a statement about what happened. The insurance representative came to her home that same day. After a very brief conversation he got out his chequebook and offered to write my friend a cheque for £500 there and then if she would sign a legally binding discharge stating that the £500 was in full and final settlement of any claim which she could possibly make.

This caused alarm bells to ring for her as she knew she was going to be off work for some time.

She consulted solicitors who specialise in personal injury cases, and eventually settled for over ten times the original offer.

Insurers in the United Kingdom for the last year or so have started doing this sort of thing a lot. They call it "claim capture". This often happens with workplace accidents where an injured worker is encouraged to deal with their claim in-house without resort to independent advice.

The insurance industry argue that they do this to ensure that the injured party gets compensation as quickly as possible and with as little hassle as possible. That may very well be their honest intention but in my experience, these offers of compensation are usually substantially less than a solicitor would settle for.

So if you have a road traffic or workplace accident my advice is always to go with the independent specialist lawyer.

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