The House of Commons Transport Committee has been up in arms recently about exaggerated whiplash claims. The role car insurers played in encouraging this practice has been seen as a breach of justice.
The proposal, to increase the small claims track limit from £1,000 to £5,000, has been revoked, on the assumption that it would impede the public’s access to a fair court hearing. Thousands of motorists would not be able to obtain legal assistance, which would mean that genuine claimants would be priced out of the compensation that they are rightly entitled to.
Insurers who encourage fraud and injury exaggeration have been warned that the government will step in, ‘to protect motorists.’
The committee’s inquiry has urged government to explain how it plans to monitor the actions of UK insurance companies. As it stands, premiums remain high to compensate for the huge scale of claims. Seven out of ten whiplash claims are the result of the claimant being contacted by their insurance company (or an affiliated third party) that encourages them to claim, even when they don’t have a genuine injury.
Greater transparency in medical evaluation and accident assessment of a car accident claim has been called for. And victims have been encouraged to see a doctor, as soon as possible, to substantiate the weight of their claim. Without this evidence, you would struggle to put together a convincing case anyway, so it’s important that you seek out a medical professional, if you suspect that you have whiplash.
The committee has proposed a reduction in the timeframe within which you must make a claim. At the moment that limit is three years, but the committee hopes to significantly lower this to 12 months, because after a year, all symptoms of whiplash will have completely dissipated; thus increasing the effectiveness of fraudulent claims.
Earlier this year, David Cameron pledged to work with car insurers to help reduce premiums and dissuade ‘trivial claims.’ According to insurers, whiplash claims alone costs the industry £2bn a year. Put simply, that’s £90 on every average annual motorist’s bill. In the UK, there are no less than 1,500 claims a day.
Over the past six years, there has been a 70% increase in motor insurance injury claims, say MPs. And that’s after a 23% drop in casualties! Between 2010 and 2011, roughly 554,000 whiplash claims were made.
In Germany, you need two medical opinions to diagnose whiplash. The UK is hoping to create a group of impartial experts that can evaluate the validity of whiplash claims. However, it’s difficult to prove or disprove whiplash – really the evidence falls on what the victim says he or she feels; that’s why this is so tricky.
Obviously, no-one wants genuine claims to fall beneath the radar, but it’s effectively simple to fake a whiplash injury.