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 55.

    Maybe if some people stopped tailgating and started concentrating more, there'd be less opportunity for these claims to take place

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Have you been hurt in a trip a fall or been whipped lashed bruised sold PPI though you have not wanted asked or needed this?
    We Solicitors depend on you the all public for claims upon claim so we can get some dosh. Claim counter claim and adjustments all add up so we can present huge bills for our typing.

    Similar to price hikes charges caused by stupid UK government regulations and privatisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    People should not be able to claim against others for personal injuries. This includes being involved in a car accident, tripping over a broken paving stone, etc.

    People should only be able to claim against their own personal insurance and so would make the fraudsters think twice about claiming. The world would be much better without the plague of ambulance chaser solicitors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    If it does become possible to determine fraudulent whiplash claimants, can we name and shame them, then put them in the town stocks for the night whereuopn they can be pelted with rotton tomatos and eggs? ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Perhaps if we made it a criminal offence to be a Personal Injury Lawyer, things would improve? These parasites (together with bankers) must surely rate as one of the most soulless and pointless professions ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    My fiancee was involved in a low speed shunt. The guy behind her wasn't concentrating and went into the back of her, whilst approaching a roundabout. This was 18 months ago and she's still suffering from neck pain. Not all whiplash claims are fraudulent. There are a lot of bad drivers out there

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    We don't need an investigation, we need action to stop this scam.

    It's obvious that our levels of whiplash are so higher than other countries, even though we drive the same cars and have less accidents.

    We need curb the ambulance chasing crooks that are encouraging this fraud.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Whiplash has got to be the most abused claim out there. Years ago I nudged another car at a very slow walking speed. The driver claimed her neck hurt. I told her not to be ridiculous and miraculously her neck stopped hurting.

    When it's cheaper to just pay out than contest a ridiculous claim it's inevitable the silly claims continue. There needs to be redress against people who make bogus claims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    A key part of being an insurer is dealing with claims . Insurers are saying that dealing with these claims is too difficult ie expensive for us ; we cant /wont deal with them so please help us . If they are paying claims that they suspect to be fraudulent does that not make them guilty of a conspiracy ? If they suspect its fraud , fight the claim and let a judge decide . Problem is that costs £

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    why has no one mentioned the part how its the insurers that sell your details onto the "whiplash lawyers" in the first place.
    they love all the extra claims, means they got an excuse to charge more on our premiums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    As its a whiplash enquiry, will George Osborne be chairing it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Not before time. Following a low speed shunt (not my fault) in a supermarket car park I receved numerous calls asking if I had suffered/must have suffered whiplash. It was only after I threatened to sue for harassment that the calls stopped. People are claiming for injuries they have not suffered and as a result premiums are going through the roof and drivers who do not make claims suffer most.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    17. Confuciousfred

    'What annoys me is that Torbay Council is spending £100k ... move a puffin crossing'.

    Is that the one on Dartmouth Rd? Cost is £60,00, road won't be closed, and the petition from the RNIB was about many sight-impaired users crossing that road, not just one. Maybe exaggeration of facts infects everything to do with whiplash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Bad drivers, incompetent insurers, dodgy claims management companies, credit hire vehicle lenders and a lack of case law to ensure a speedy finish to a claim is to blame.

    Whiplash barely scratches the surface!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The fraudulent whiplash claims are initiated by the legal fraternity.
    I had a minor accident last year, not once did I ask for injury compensation yet my insurance company had half a dozen law firms call me 'begging me' to make a claim. I even said to them that there was nothing wrong with me yet still they insisted that i visit there doc in Harley Street who would certify me as having whip lash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    What I cannot figure out is how it is mandetory for drivers to hand over their hard earned cash to the legalised protection racket that is motor insurance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Causes of compensation culture;
    1. lawyers allowed to pay commission
    2. claim farmers not regulated till too late
    3 lawyers running lawfirm as cash cow, growing by buying leads.
    4. insurers cost cutting and not defending claims
    Make commission of any type a criminal offence

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Perhaps if a few million was invested into whiplash diagnosis research and clinical studies, this issue could finally be put to bed... if the motoring lobbyists really wants to help they would stump up the cash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    There is actually a very simple answer to this. The Courts have a small claims procedure under which claims under £5,000 (soon to be £10,000) are determined without either party being able to recover legal costs. The exception is personal injury claims, where the limit is £1,000, a figure fixed in about 1991. If this were raised to, say, £3,000 the bulk of the problem would evaporate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    If they can fit an accelorometer in my mobile phone they can fit one in your car for peanuts. It would then tell us exactly how big an impact was and on that basis it would be easier to judge the 'honesty' of the claiment.


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