Car insurance: MPs to investigate impact of whiplash claims

Car accident Whiplash accounts for an estimated 70% of road accident personal injury claims

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MPs are to investigate the extent to which claims for whiplash injuries are pushing up the cost of car insurance.

The Commons Transport Committee said it wanted to examine suggestions that rising payouts meant the UK was now the "whiplash capital of the world".

It will look at the impact fabricated and exaggerated claims have on premiums and what can be done about them.

Ministers say action is needed to curb the 60% increase in road-related personal injury claims since 2006.

Whiplash is characterised by the NHS as a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways.

Claims for such injuries have soared in recent years despite improvements in vehicle safety and a sharp reduction in the number of reported accidents involving personal injury.

The cross-party committee has already held two inquiries into the rising cost of car insurance in the past three years.

But now it plans to focus specifically on claims for whiplash injuries - of which there were more than half a million last year - and how they affect what drivers are paying for insurance.


Insurers say there has been an "epidemic" of claims - with 1,500 made every day - and their £2bn annual cost is adding £90 to the average premium.

Start Quote

Whiplash is notoriously difficult to diagnose, which means that for too many people it has become the fraud of choice”

End Quote James Dalton Association of British Insurers

In a consultation document published in December, the Ministry of Justice set out ideas for action, including creating new medical panels to improve diagnosis of whiplash injuries and allowing more cases to be challenged in the small claims court.

The committee wants to know whether the government's proposals will reduce the cost of premiums and what proportion of the £90 figure is attributable to inaccurate or fraudulent claims.

It will also study the likely impact of the proposals on genuine claimants and what else can be done to bring down premiums.

Louise Ellman, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said the issue was "difficult", but she and her colleagues wanted to weigh up all the arguments about the best way forward.

"It is vitally important for policymakers to understand the reasons for the very high cost of motor insurance, especially for young drivers and to take steps to bring that cost down," she added.

"Whiplash claims undoubtedly play a part in driving up the cost of motor insurance but access to justice for injured people must be preserved."

'Fraud of choice'

Former Justice Secretary Jack Straw has mounted a high-profile campaign against what he says is the large increase in dubious whiplash claims, tabling a private member's bill in 2011 urging reform of motor insurance.

The Association of British Insurers has called for whiplash injuries to be assessed by an accredited medical expert, trained in the latest diagnostic techniques and able to take into account the circumstances of the collision rather than the claimant's reported symptoms.

Start Quote

We continue to work with young people, the insurance industry, and other key partners in addressing this important issue”

End Quote Stephen Hammond Roads minister

It also says a set level of damages should be prescribed for whiplash claims and any exaggerated claim should be thrown out entirely.

"Insurers want to make it simpler and quicker for genuine whiplash claimants to get fair compensation," says the body's assistant director of motor and liability James Dalton.

"But whiplash is notoriously difficult to diagnose, which means that for too many people it has become the fraud of choice."

The government said it had taken action to help bring down insurance premiums by banning referral fees, reforming no win no fee rules and cracking down on fraudulent whiplash claims.

"In addition, we are considering several options to ensure that newly qualified drivers are properly prepared and drive safely, allowing insurers to reduce premiums for this age group," Roads Minister Stephen Hammond said.

"We continue to work with young people, the insurance industry, and other key partners in addressing this important issue."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    25.Jonathan Davies

    " there a case for raising the burden of proof in civil cases to "beyond reasonable doubt"..."


    This would make the majority of cases, e.g. property matters impossible to resolve.

    Remember: to make knowingly a false submission on oath is a crime. A few spot checks involving thorough investigations of such claims, followed by prosecution might be better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Generally we are becoming far too litigious in our society

    Not really, the vast majority of the criminally negligent aren't subject to either criminal or civil law. There's huge areas of law which the police refuse to enforce & most people who suffer from the negligence of others don't actually sue but on the other hand there are always those who will milk the system

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I'd like to know where the 'lobbyists' are in this....

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Whiplash does happen.

    probably 1 out of every 100 claims is truthful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Like so many things, the cynical cause problems for the genuine.

    It's now no doubt to be assumed that every claimant is a fraud, unless there's clear evidence to the contrary. This will deny justice to those who deserve it.

    Worse still, it could mean invasive, risk-associated (CT scans etc) diagnostics may be needed to support claims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    We have a shared drive & the dopey daughter next door hit our car for the 3rd time denting a door,we got the car repaired on their insurance but while it was in the body shop we received a call from an insurance company asking to represent us for any injuries & pushing whiplash, we don't know who informed the company, body shop or insurers but at least I gave 5 mins of sarcasm to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Could they also investigate more widely over bogus insurance/compensation claims?

    I organise community events on a voluntary, not for indidvidual or corporate profit basis.

    We get an average of 2 people every 3 years deanding "compensation" & threatening court action if they don't get the money, because they claim we did something wrong, which we enver have......we don't need the hassle....

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Anything but challenge the legal profession on it's ethics.
    I get sales calls telling me to 'get in touch, before I lose my chance' of 'free money'.
    I have NEVER had a crash, let alone whiplash.
    B***** ambulance chasers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    This will be very difficult to sort out because you have the legal profession protecting their earnings and then insurance industry protecting their profits. The driving public have no say in this whatsoever. These accident management companies should be completely banned. Only doctors on a government list should make decisions regarding accidental damage to victims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Generally we are becoming far too litigious in our society. Whiplash can be genuine, it is not easy to disprove and there lies the problem. We should ban solicitors from advertising no win no fee services, especially on television.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    To stop excessive litigation, is there a case for raising the burden of proof in civil cases to "beyond reasonable doubt" rather than liability being decided on the balance of probabilities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    All injury claims need to go to court and only independent court assigned doctors should diagnose any injury resulting from an accident. If the injury is verified the claim can go ahead. If the claimant is shown to be lying then the other party should be given the opportunity to sue the claimant and then the claimant should be charged with insurance fraud. That will stop the liars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Medical fees only..? This is what the NHS is set up to provide for free. well trained , qualified, in a good job, supporting a young family, and suddenly you can never work again because someone was not in full control of their vehicle and crashed into you ? No compensation for loss of abilities, and termination of any prospects for future earnings potential would be the ultimate insult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Good idea. Next up, stress at work and bad backs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    If you get whiplash, you had your head-rest incorrectly positioned. Therefore it's YOUR fault, no matter who crashed into who."

    Not all vehicles are fitted with headrests. Not all headrests are fully adjustable. Not all cases work on "one size fits all." In any event, if someone runs into the back of your stationary vehicle, how is it your fault? Silly comment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Dont waste time and money on enquiries simply change the rules - no compensation for whiplash just medical fees paid direct to the medical provider.

    Claims will reduce dramatically and so will the injury lawyers, back under the stone they crawled out from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    This racket is crying out for government intervention

    Insurance costs are rising rapidly, the young face outrageous insurance premiums & many are forced off the road or drive without any insurance because the penalties are less than the premiums

    Apart from crash for cash, there is a whole industry of doctors, lawyers & insurers perpetuating this fiddle.

  • Comment number 18.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    My mom had whiplash from a pot hole (no insurance claim), so it does happen. What annoys me is that Torbay Council is spending £100k from their pot hole fund to move a puffin crossing, for the second time in 10 years, 50 yards because of the needs of 1 person backed the RNIB. This main road will be closed again for 10 weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @6, and @7 yeah thats a great idea, once the temptation of financial gain is removed there will be less claims.


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