Transport Select Committee Report Concerns Our Personal Injury Solicitors
19th August 2013
The attack on car accident compensation is continuing, as legislative changes and recommendations that will cause substantial disruption to claimants and solicitors are continuing to progress through government. Insurers have long been calling the UK “the whiplash capital of the world” and have been pushing for amendments that would make it harder for claimants to access the compensation they deserve.
Some of their recommendations are being taken to heart, as a report on reforms to whiplash injury compensation claims has been released by the Transport Select Committee, repeating many of the same suggestions that the insurance sector has made.
Whiplash compensation claim report
Whiplash claims should require more supporting evidence, including medical reports from doctors and A&E reports dated from shortly after the motor vehicle accident, the committee suggested. This is despite the fact that whiplash injuries can take hours or days to fully develop, possibly preventing people from visiting hospitals and gathering the appropriate evidence in time.
Claimants might not be able to get a report from the doctor in A&E either if the committee’s recommendations are followed, as it called for an accreditation scheme to be set up. This is in response from insurers that some medical reports overestimate the severity of whiplash injury claims. If insurers have any evidence that this is the case, or the names of any doctors they believe are falsifying reports, then they should prosecute them, or investigate their motives, rather than call for an accreditation scheme that will affect all doctors!
Insurers should put steps in place to end any practices that encourage exaggeration or outright fraud, the report continued. It pointed out that estimates of the extent of fraud range between 0.1% of all whiplash claims to more than 60% of them, noting that insurers often call exaggeration a form of fraud. From our experience handling car accident compensation claims, we’d suggest that the proportion of fraud is close to 0.1% – nobody ever approaches us with fraudulent claims.
The committee’s report admitted it could not even roughly estimate how much fraud there is, nor determine whether or not the UK actually is the ‘whiplash capital’. Despite this, it still said it will push ahead with efforts to prevent whiplash injury claims.
Fortunately, there are some silver linings to the committee’s report. Many people have been incredibly sceptical as to whether or not insurance premiums will actually fall if whiplash compensation is harder to claim, so the report recommended that the government monitor premiums to ensure the commitment is honoured.
The committee also recognised the dangers of increasing the small claims court threshold for whiplash claims from £1,000 to £5,000 could see people without experienced personal injury solicitors claiming against insurance companies, which will use professional legal teams to contest claims and minimise payouts. Furthermore, doing so could actually lead to an increase in fraud, as expert evidence does not usually form part of a claim in small claims courts.
Louise Ellman MP, chair of the committee, said that genuine whiplash sufferers should not be “demonised” because their injury can’t be seen on scans or definitively diagnosed. The report noted that a huge range of factors lead to high insurance premiums, including the increased risk of road accidents among young drivers, the activities of claims management companies and competition issues within the insurance sector.
While the committee’s report has provoked some concern among our road accident solicitors, we are pleased the report saw some of the flaws in the insurance sector’s arguments.