Britain has more claims for whiplash than anywhere else in Europe, and the government is holding a summit today (2 May 2012) on how to tackle the problem.
The Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly has told the BBC that over the last five years the number of road traffic accidents has fallen by 23%, but the number of claims has risen by 70%, with an average of 2.7 whiplash claims for every accident in the country. He admitted that nobody knew how many of those claims are false.
It is claimed that whiplash claims add on average £90 a year to the cost of car insurance.
He says that all claims for whiplash should go to independent doctors and “tougher” guidance of doctors’ diagnosis might be needed. There is already guidance in place, but wants the evidence to be toughened up. He admitted that this is not a simple matter as whiplash is a complex injury.
Insurance industry is also looking at setting up a fraud investigation bureau.
Deborah Evans, recently appointed Chief Executive of the Association of Person Injury Lawyers (who represent the interests of injured people), shares the concern about fraudulent claims :
“ If you read the papers, you would quickly presume that virtually every claim is fraudulent. Some will be as there are always people who will try to exploit a situation to their own advantage. But for every fraudulent claim there are probably 99 genuine claims. We would always encourage insurance companies to fight back claims they consider to be fraudulent – they have information that lawyers don’t currently have at their disposal, such as whether the claimant is a regular claimer, which can be a good indication of potential fraud. At the moment, insurance companies would rather just pay claims than fight them, and then complain that they’ve had to pay them. If anything is likely to encourage a growth in fraudulent personal injury claims this would be it. Insurance companies often don’t even want the sufferer to be seen by a doctor, despite it being an important part of the process designed to separate the genuine claimants from fraudsters. Insurance companies need to behave responsibly here. Doctors also have an important role to play.. The onus is on everyone to be honest here: lawyers, insurers, doctors and last, but not least, the victims. Lawyers who encourage fraudulent claims, or persuade a victim to exaggerate, will have their careers abruptly ended. We should all fight fraud.”
Another issue to be discussed at the summit is a review of the small claims court limit. Currently claims of less than £1,000 will generally be dealt with in at by the small claims court (which does not make financial provision for legal representation), but there are plans to raise the level of claim to a minimum of £5,000, which could reduce the ordinary persons access to the justice system.
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