By Jane Woodcock, Senior Legal Executive, Neil Hudgell Solicitors
Whiplash injury claims seem to be a real bone of contention at the moment. Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, has been particularly vocal on the topic, veering between demanding a reform of the claims system and calling for a ban on whiplash payouts altogether.
Amongst the company’s recommendations is the introduction of a new process whereby victims put their claims directly to the insurer of the driver who caused the crash. By cutting out the middlemen, Aviva expects that car insurance premiums will be cut by, on average, £60 per year – a real coup for motorists no?
Well, in theory. However, Aviva seems to have overlooked how vulnerable this would leave road traffic accident victims. Submitting a claim to the “at fault” insurer would undoubtedly create a profound conflict of interest and may not result in a fair and deserved outcome for the injured party.
And it’s not just insurance providers wading in on the debate. The government is now putting measures in place to put a stop to the alleged “compensation culture” sweeping the nation. In addition to the Jackson reforms of last year, Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has now announced medical assessment fees for whiplash injury victims will be cut by almost 75%, from £595 to just £180.
The new fixed rate, which will be introduced from October, is aligned with the time it actually takes to produce the reports and aims to limit the financial incentives currently on offer that may lead medical experts to encourage victims to claim unnecessary treatment.
Other new rules coming into play will allow courts to throw out compensation cases where any part of the claim has proved to be fundamentally dishonest. At present, claimants who have exaggerated their case, sometimes to the tune of several thousand pounds, are still permitted to recover their original claim – not much of a deterrent against fraud I’m sure you’ll agree.
Rooting out the unjust practices surrounding fraudulent claims is certainly a valuable venture, however, new policies should by no means be to the detriment of genuine claimants.