Ministers should consider reducing the limitation period for road accident insurance claims, and require whiplash claimants to produce more supporting evidence. However, genuine claimants should not be demonised. These were some of the key findings in a report published last summer by the Transport Select Committee. The Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP, said at the launch of the report:
“Whiplash injuries can have debilitating consequences for those who suffer them. However, some of the increase in whiplash claims will have been due to fraud or exaggeration. To help bring insurance premiums down the Government must tighten up the requirements for motor insurance claims and ensure that insurers honour their commitment to reduce premiums.”
The report states that the Government should consider requiring claimants to provide proof that they have either been seen by a doctor or attended Accident and Emergency soon after the accident. There should be a presumption against accepting claims where adequate proof of injury is not provided.
The Committee was surprised to hear that insurers sometimes make offers to personal injury claimants before a medical report has been received. The report warns that insurers must end practices which encourage fraud. If they do not, the Government must take steps to protect motorists. In theory, motor insurers have committed to passing any reduction in costs that arise from legal reforms onto the consumer in the form of lower premiums. The report recommends that the Government explains how it will monitor that this particular commitment is being honoured in practice.
The number of fraudulent and exaggerated whiplash claims has contributed to the increase in motor insurance premiums in recent years. Estimates of the percentage of fraudulent claims ranged widely from 0.1% to over 60%, according to the report. These estimates were based on firms’ caseloads, statistical extrapolation and survey data. The types of fraudulent activity mentioned by witnesses included:
- ‘cash-for-crash’, where crashes were deliberately caused in order to generate a claim;
- claims relating to non-existent passengers;
- fabricated or exaggerated symptoms; and
- exaggeration of the impact of a genuine injury.
There is an unfortunate absence of detailed statistics about road traffic accidents. This means that it is impossible to relate the increasing number of personal injury claims in recent years to the number of accidents. According to the MPS, the Government needs to improve the collection of data about road accidents as well as improve the detection of fraudulent personal injury claims
The report points out that there are many factors which contribute to the increasing cost of motor insurance including the activities of claims management companies, the poor safety record of young drivers and competition issues, something which is now under investigation by the Competition Commission.
Louise Ellman MP, concluded by saying that many claims are genuine and relate to real injuries which affect people for months or years. In the debate about how to reduce fraud and exaggeration, genuine claimants should not be demonised simply because their condition cannot be picked up on a scan.
Whiplash is a term that refers specifically to neck trauma caused by the head unexpectedly and unnaturally jolting in any direction and damaging tissue in the neck. If, after a motor accident, a person experiences any of the following symptoms, they may have cause to make a whiplash accident claim:
- Constant discomfort or pain in the neck area
- Painful twitches or twinges in the shoulders
- Difficulty moving the neck due to pain or stiff muscles
- Light-headedness, uneasy balance and/or slight tinnitus
Sometimes it can take up to 24 hours for symptoms to develop after an accident. Usually, the discomfort and pain are temporary but some injuries can last for months and, in some cases, years or even permanently. Victims of whiplash can struggle to drive, exercise or carry out any manual labour. They may even have to stop work.
Compensation for whiplash is critical when it comes to getting a genuine victim back on his or her feet. The financial support provided by a successful claim can help pay for rehabilitation and cover loss of income if necessary.
To pursue a whiplash injury claim the first thing to do is contact a solicitor specialising in this area. Close Thornton Solicitors is a long established firm and has a team of lawyers specialising in personal injury claims. For further information, please contact Shaun Burke on 01325 466461 or email email@example.com.