Some cases require special attention and concentrated expertise due to their complexity, and with more than 25 years as an Attorney at Law in the field of claims management, Bernd Höke provides the expertise required to deal with most complex personal injury cases against insurance companies. He allows professional advice on site combined with networked knowledge, allowing his clients to get the best result. This month, he talks to us about how he made a name for himself in Insurance law and the developments in place.
Bernd, you have worked for a renowned insurance company for many years, you have made a name for yourself in the business. What made you switch sides?
I get that question a lot. It is difficult to understand why someone would give up a successful and prospering career for a step into the unknown; I could no longer agree with my convictions, how the increasing competition led to harder regulation and cost-saving measures like staff reduction. For many years, I have worked hard to reach the quality standard that we had, but inevitably these developments meant a loss of that quality. I could not support that and so I left.
Regarding the expertise of lawyers employed by insurance companies and those representing the victims, there were tremendous discrepancies between both, particularly in the field of cost-intensive personal injuries. The pros were always on the side of the insurance companies. My aim was, and still is, to create equality of arms on the part of the victims.
Many insurance companies expand their influence. Some perform training courses for insurance law for lawyers specialised in this field. There are co-operations with experts for medical opinions. Some experts have even subsidiaries – which has a hint of supplier industry.
At that time, I was given the unique opportunity to participate in a law firm specialized in exactly the field I was familiar with and to set it up nationwide. Back then it was located in Munich; currently we are located with 27 subsidiaries all over Germany. Our growth and success prove us right.
Is there any recent development that has had or will have big impact on the insurance law sector?
Actually, recently the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection published a draft bill entitled: “Draft Law on Introducing an Entitlement to Survivors’ Benefits”. The pain and suffering inflicted on a survivor through the loss of a close beloved one shall be compensated. Though this is ready applied in most European countries, it represents a novelty in Germany.
Currently in Germany, those bereaved of a person killed in a car accident are solely entitled to smart money if they sustained damages to the health beyond the common grief. The mental pain inflicted by impacts on the medical physical state do not suffice to be regarded as such damage to the health. Moreover, it requires to prove some state of shock, a medically tangible mental impairment that goes beyond the common experience of bereaved in a case of death. As you can imagine, this posed a heavy burden on the bereaved. Not only did they have to cope with the loss they experienced and their grief but also with bureaucracy to pursue their claims for the impairment. This draft is a step in the right direction towards a compensation for the bereaved.
In your opinion, will this have a great impact on disputes and legal actions with insurance companies?
From my experience, insurance companies will always face disputes and legal actions – some with and some without good reason. The point is the way you handle claims as an insurance company. In most cases, it suffices to adjust asserted justified claims, but insurance companies are still companies and they have to generate profit. So, in some cases it is solely a business decision to change it. Many injured parties do not know their rights, so they do not go after them, or it is too costly to take legal actions for little amounts unadjusted.