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Does Google Streetview mean the death of the locus report?

April 15th, 2010 by Geoff

It was recently suggested to me that the 95% coverage of the country claimed by Google Streetview was going to finish off the need to supply “sketch plan and photographs” in the legal agency field.  It may look like it but I must beg to differ.

I cannot recall how many of these locus jobs I have done over the years but each one has been different and the requirements of the instructing office have been equally varied.  Some locations seem to generate accidents so we have been back to the same location more than once but each visit has had a new set of requirements.

We are often asked to check traffic patterns at specific times of day and how the street environment is “used” by the various types of traffic and pedestrians.  I can recall more than one occasion where I have been sitting in my car at an accident scene waiting for the sun to rise in order to check visibility and the effect of dazzle on motorists.  The many elements needing to be checked appear to be infinite in their variety and combinations.

So, are the days of standing at the roadside clipboard and camera in hand recording relevant data gone forever?  I don’t think so.  It is obvious that some people are introducing downloaded prints of Streetview scenes into the courts but this is a practice which is almost certainly going to come back and bite those individuals on their nether regions.

Let’s have a look at Streetview and its copyright images and see why this could all go horribly wrong.  There are lots of lovely colour pictures easily accessible for free and not involving much effort – sounds great doesn’t it?  Just look at those lively street scenes, well not always lively as many have been taken on a Sunday morning with hardly any traffic around but at least you can see the street markings.  Well, yes, sometimes but lower screen material is often distorted but we can live with that surely, unless of course you want to know the height of the kerb or the quality of that road repair or the condition of the street furniture or anything else that isn’t visible from about 3 metres up in the air.  We’ll ignore the screen joins as well and try and guess at any slopes so that’s probably not too bad.  The number plate obscuring software also seems to work on some road name plates.

Mentioning the camera position brings me to another problem.  Most of the accidents we get to deal with are at junctions and the usual need is for data on the visibility for emerging drivers.  This is easily checked by an investigator on the scene but virtually impossible on Streetview where the picture has been taken from the carriageway by a camera mounted on a tall pole – not exactly what the average motorist is going to see is it?  A photographer can also see and record some worn street markings which do not always show up on Streetview.

Our main office is based in Mid Sussex and it appears that our Streetview pictures are amongst the most recent so let’s have a look at them.  Firstly there’s my Citroen parked outside the office (car written off in late 2009), then to the local petrol station where a bargain can be had with fuel at 97p a litre, never mind let’s go past the busy off-licence (shut down months ago) into town and go along the main street.  There’s the carpet store (also closed months ago) and the pub (not only closed but demolished as well).  Turning the other way we can follow the main road unblemished by the current road markings and parking areas.  By now you probably get the general idea and the situation elsewhere is even worse – go into London and see the busy Woolworth’s stores – it’s like having your own little time machine.

If you knew exactly when the pictures were taken it might not be so bad but this is not shown and I hardly think that Google will be overly keen on sending their cameraman to court to verify his photography.  Furthermore how are you going to get this material into court as evidence?  If the views are printed off (copyright issues?) they can easily be tampered with so do you have numerous monitors set up in court so that all parties can see the same screen view live from the internet at the same moment?  Personally I cannot see it happening.

The whole concept of using Streetview as a locus photography tool seems a bit of a car crash to me which is why I am not too worried.  We are called in to help clear up the aftermath of crashes every day and I guess that being asked to sort things out after people have tried to take short-cuts with Streetview will just be another source of business.

Geoden Agency has for over 20 years prepared profession locus reports and photographs, these include a personal visit to the location and take into consideration the relevant and often unique features of the road layout / local environment at that point.

Famous Anniversaries, an occasional series – No.27 Alf Boons

April 1st, 2010 by Geoff

Sadly today (1st April 2010) there will be few people celebrating the centenary of the birth of one of the insurance world’s greatest innovators, Alf Boons, who was believed to be the creator of the “no claims discount”.  Alf was born “Alphonse” in Paris to French parents, ironically bearing the surname Bonusse, although they anglicised their name when they moved to Mucking in Essex a few years later.  As a child growing up in Essex the young Bonusse soon decided that he was Alf and not Alphonse thus avoiding numerous beatings from his fun-loving schoolmates.

When Alf left school he tried several jobs until he found his way into insurance and showed a flair for the business.  His abilities enabled him to reach a point here he became chief underwriter for one of the Lloyds syndicates and it is believed that the “NCD” was one of his marketing ploys during that period.  Certainly Alf made no attempts to deny the story.

He retired early after a disastrous accident involving a tea trolley* in the early 60s and he and his wife, former socialite Lavinia Smallpiece, settled down in the picturesque village of Basingstoke.  During this time, Alf’s creative streak did not leave him and there are stories of his invention of the instant self-portrait camera.  Sadly, no examples of this clever device, known as the Hashlee, are in existence after an incident in which Alf is believed to have sent pictures of himself to a pretty neighbour.  Lavinia is said to have smashed the camera over Alf’s head and then destroyed the plans at which point Alf lost interest (and consciousness).

A few months after the unfortunate Hashlee incident the Boons decided to move and chose to go to France, Alf’s birthplace.  Alf was still a wealthy man and the couple bought an old mansion on the Seine where Alf could practise his angling and the house was re-named “Poisson d’Avril”.  For many years Alf was a common sight wandering the area and practising his angling in secluded pools.

Tragically Alf died in 1982 as a result of hypothermia caused by frequent exposure to the elements whilst angling.  He was buried in the churchyard of the 13th century church of Saint Avril Premier in the nearby village of Tirer les Jambes.  A small plaque now adorns the front of the last home of Alphonse Bonusse.

* Tea trolley – a means by which staff could be supplied with refreshments at their desk.  The trolleys were often overloaded leading to many accidents in which staff sustained injuries from luke warm tea  inundation and wagon wheel schrapnel.

Process Server – Just a glorified postman?

March 17th, 2010 by Chris

It is not unusual that a process server will describe themselves as just a glorified postman, frequently to those receiving the documents, however if this is the case then why do solicitors continue to use professional process servers instead of Royal Mail?

The Royal Mail is pretty good at what it does, but everyone is aware of the well documented flaws.  For a legal document to be served correctly it is important to be sure that it has been delivered and received by the intended recipient.  Using the Royal Mail firstly the letter would have to be sent by recorded delivery so that it could be tracked to its destination, to prove delivery.

The next problem comes when delivery is attempted.  How many of us have received letters or parcels that have been signed for by other members of our household or even left with a neighbour for safe keeping.  In this case the Royal Mail has performed their duty by ensuring that the letter has been delivered to the address, but how can anyone be sure if the intended recipient will receive the document and if they do, how long it will take before they open it and take account of the contents.  The same problems occur when using a courier company.

By instructing a process server you can be sure that if a document can be served personally, it will be.  Professional process servers are very determined people who will never intentionally allow a target to evade service.  Should the recipient of the papers not be in on the first visit, discreet enquiries will usually be made with neighbours to confirm residency and the best time to call back again to find the person in and maximise the chance of personal service.  It is usually found that the best time to visit is out of conventional office hours and a process server will be more than happy to attend at the most appropriate time.

Once personal service is effected, the process server will complete a statement of service or swear an affidavit containing all the relevant details to confirm service of the papers.  This can then be entered into court and in very rare cases the process server can be called upon to give oral evidence under oath in open court regarding the service of the papers.  I don’t believe that this is a service that you will find the Royal Mail or any similar company offering any time soon!

Herdens can provide process servers throughout the UK to ensure the prompt and efficient service of all types of legal documents.  Services are usually provided on a fixed fee basis to include multiple visits if necessary and a statement of service or affidavit of service included in the cost.

Press release announcing the merger of Geoden Agency and Herdens

February 25th, 2010 by Chris

As an initial introduction, below is a copy of the press release which announced the merger of Geoden Agency and Herdens to form GH Consultants Ltd at the beginning of 2010

Geoden Agency and Herdens merge to form GH Consultants Limited

(1st December 2009)  The existing successful legal agencies, Geoden Agency and Herdens are today announcing their intention to merge as from the 1st January 2010.  The two firms have worked together for a number of years and see this as an opportunity to rationalise operations and administration whilst providing the opportunity to expand in to new business areas.

The new firm will be known as GH Consultants Ltd, although the existing trading titles will be retained.  Geoden Agency will continue to build on over 20 years of accident and insurance investigations, whilst Herdens will handle the firms’ tracing, process serving and other investigation tasks.

As part of this exciting development, the existing Haywards Heath office in Sussex will be relocated within the town to allow for an expansion of staff numbers to support the two agencies’ increasing workload.  This will then become the main administration office for the merged business, with a satellite office being retained in Bracknell, Berkshire.

Geoff Dent, Senior Partner at Geoden Agency said “Having spent several years in managerial positions with insurers and law firms I originally saw a need for a quality investigation service covering the South East of England.  Within 5 years we had expanded operations across the country and are looking at continuing growth some 20 years later.  Due to demand from our clients we need to expand so here we go into a new and exciting chapter.”

About Geoden Agency:

Geoden Agency was founded in 1989 by Geoff Dent.  Geoff has over 30 years experience of handling insurance and accident claims, including spells with the London Transport Executive, Lloyds syndicates and law firms based in the City and the North of England.  Geoden Agency specialises in accident investigations with a particular interest in motor insurance claims.  In recent years the firm has become know for its work investigating credit hire claims.  Geoden Agency currently operates from offices in Haywards Heath, Sussex which will be relocated as described above.  Haywards Heath is conveniently located a short distance from London and the M25 near Gatwick Airport.

About Herdens:

Herdens was founded in 2007 by Chris Dent, son of Geoff Dent.  Chris has worked within the insurance industry for the majority of his working life, including roles in underwriting, administration, marketing, compliance and debt recovery.  Herdens has become known for its nationwide process serving operation offering cost effective solutions to solicitors, government bodies and other firms and organisations.  This is backed-up by associated services such as tracing and general investigations.  The firm operates from an office in Bracknell, Berkshire, which will become the satellite office for the new merged business.

For more information please contact:

Geoff Dent, Senior Partner of Geoden Agency – 01444 453355 – geoff.dent@geoden.co.uk

Chris Dent, Principal of Herdens – 0845 486 0073 – chris.dent@herdens.co.uk

P.O. Box 248, Haywards Heath, RH16 3GJ.

New blog launched for GH Consultants Ltd

February 25th, 2010 by Chris

Welcome to the first entry in the new GH Consultants, Legal Agents blog.

One of our constituent firms, Herdens originally had a blog which was infrequently updated, however we hope that following the merger between Herdens and Geoden Agency, with increasing staff numbers, we can provide regular, relevant and interesting updates to this blog.  The original Herdens blog will be left where it is, but no longer updated.

We hope that you will find our efforts interesting and we look forward to receiving your comments.  If there is any topic you would like to see covered, then please do not hesitate to contact us.