The Department for Transport recently reported that around 500,000 road traffic casualties go unreported to the police. Do these figures undermine the changes made in the MoJ consultations?
The MoJ consultation was a curious piece of work from start to finish. It began with a provocative statement: “The government is bringing forward a package of measures to crack down on minor, exaggerated and fraudulent soft tissue injury (“whiplash”) claims stemming from road traffic accidents (RTAs).”
But nowhere in the 42 page document, excluding appendices, was the so-called problem quantified to justify the swingeing reforms;reforms that aim to reduce the judicially determined rates at which pain, suffering and loss of amenity are currently valued and to remove the ability for most victims to be legally represented, despite the insurance backed opponent regularly being funded for
counsel if the claim proceeds through court.
The consultation cited 770,000 new claims registered in 2015/16, but only 142,000 RTAs were reported to the police in 2015. Although it wasn’t alleged that the difference between the two figures could only be accounted for by fraud and/or the most minor of vehicle bumps unlikely to cause significant bodily damage to human occupants, the inference was clear. So when the DfT announced 500,000 RTA casualties do, according to their records, go unreported to the police, those representing claimants were certainly not surprised. The commonly held view was that the Government didn’t much care for statistics in this area; they were on a longstanding mission to end the UK’s position as the “whiplash capital of the world”.
Non-partisan bodies such as the Transport Select Committee have conducted extensive enquiries into the RTA claims market and reached some fascinating conclusions. For example, in 2013:
“Insurers must immediately get their house in order and endpractices which encourage fraud and exaggeration.”
“We are concerned that use of the small claims track could prove counterproductive in efforts to discourage fraudulent and exaggerated claims.”
An earlier Ministerial report in 2010, “Common Sense, Common Safety”, commenting on the new Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents, had said, “It delivers fair compensation by way of a simple procedure to any claimant making a low value personal injury claim”.
So, to conclude, the new DfT statistics simply add to an already large body of independent material that points to a wholly different understanding of the issues surrounding low value RTA claims. They may further undermine the credibility of arguments in the consultation, but not its progress to the statute book, it would appear.