AA welcomes Ministry of Justice proposals to end whiplash fraud
The announcement on 11 December 2012 of consultation on new measures to reduce fraudulent whiplash injury claims by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has been welcomed by the AA.
The AA tracks the quarterly movement of car insurance premiums through its British Insurance Premium Index and has seen the average cost of a comprehensive policy double over four years*.
The insurance industry estimates that around £90 is added to every car insurance premium to fund the annual £2 billion cost of whiplash injury claims.**
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, believes that a significant contributory factor fuelling premium increases has been a sharp rise in cost and value of injury claims at a time when the number of crashes in Britain’s roads has been falling and car safety has improved.***
“You would think that British motorists have weaker necks than any other European nation,” Mr Douglas says, pointing out that whiplash injury is not a feature of injury claims in other countries.
Reducing the number and cost of whiplash claims
(Runs from 11 Dec 2012 to 8 Mar 2013)
Increases in claims for compensation relating to whiplash injuries are having a significant impact on the motor insurance premiums paid by individuals, families and businesses.
The Ministry of Justice is currently consulting on the creation of independent medical panels to support better diagnosis of possible whiplash injuries. In addition, the consultation also looks at whether the small claims track threshold for damages for personal injury claims arising from road traffic accidents should be raised.
The views and opinions of all stakeholders are an important part of the policy process - contributions to this consultation from all affected individuals or groups are welcome and The Ministry of Justice will review all submissions and intends to publish a response in Spring 2013.
it has become increasingly ‘OK’ to claim £2,000 or £3,000 for an injury even if there is none, or where a couple of pain-killers would have done the trick
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance
“While it is difficult to diagnose whiplash injury as it doesn’t show up on x-rays or scans, this also makes it difficult and costly for defending insurance companies to disprove such claims and counter suspected fraud.
“As a result, it has become increasingly ‘OK’ to claim £2,000 or £3,000 for an injury even if there is none, or where a couple of pain-killers would have done the trick,” he says.
Because the chances of making a successful claim are high, there has also been an explosion in organised ‘cash for crash’ gangs creaming millions of pounds off insurers for fraudulent or non-existent injuries.
The proposed independent medical screening of whiplash injury claimants must ensure that those who are genuinely injured will still be able to claim the compensation they deserve. But it must also bring the claims of chancers and fraudsters to a shuddering halt.
Anyone who has endured months of pain in a surgical collar and years of discomfort following a whiplash injury will tell you how debilitating this injury can be.
Mr Douglas also welcomes the re-balancing of no-win no-fee deals so losing defendants no longer bear the brunt of costs, which will bring the rest of the UK broadly in line with the Scottish legal system.
“Car insurance premiums are significantly lower in Scotland than the rest of the UK partly because there are considerably fewer successful whiplash injury claims north of the border.”
Driving along a narrow urban street with cars parked along one side, an AA Insurance customer reversed into a space to allow a lorry to pass. In reversing the driver inadvertently clipped a parked car, causing very little damage. The car’s owner emerged from a nearby newspaper shop and details were exchanged. Soon afterwards, the AA received a £9,000 claim for injury to three people in the parked car, the owner of which said that the AA’s customer had driven into the back of his car. On this occasion the claim was successfully disputed.
An AA customer was involved in a minor accident with no injury, which resulted in damage to the nearside front wheel on a curb, requiring recovery to a local garage. The car was left in a pound and the driver asked to sign an indemnity while the vehicle was on the garage’s premises. Soon afterwards a personal injury claim firm phoned him and it transpired that the garage had passed his details on and that the ‘small print’ on the form meant he had inadvertently given his permission for the firm to contact him. The caller asked him why he ‘would not want to get £3,000’.
A car went into the back of an AA customer at traffic lights. The driver was subsequently called by an injury firm and although he suffered only minimal neck discomfort agreed to progress an injury claim. As the discomfort cleared up within a couple of days, the driver in all conscience decided to drop the claim. The law firm subsequently sent him a bill for £1,300 for ‘the legal work carried out to that point’ and urging him to resume the claim.
(12 December 2012)
*AA British Insurance Premium Index: ‘Shoparound’ summary (average of five cheapest premiums from a range of providers for each risk in a nationwide basket of risks); comprehensive car insurance: October 2012: £844.66, October 2008: £437.09
Average Shoparound quoted premium, October 2012, UK average: £844.66, Scotland average: £639.57
** Source: Association of British Insurers
*** Every day, 1,500 whiplash injury claims are made. Since 2006 there has been a 60% rise in the number of personal injury claims made while the number of reported collisions on Britain’s roads has fallen by 20% over the same period (source: ABI / Department for Transport)