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 135.

    The up and coming Jackson Reforms will kill the predatory tactics, although the misconception is that most 'whiplash' claims are generated by dubious claims management companies, promising a pot of gold via a text. These leads come from insurers, the garage, the broker - come April 1st the referral fee ban will kick in. Then who will help the genuine claimant? Will we see premiums drop? Unlikely!

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Insurance is specifically in place to pay for injuries, such as whiplash. £90 seems like a very small percentage when considering the average insurance premium is approx £1500. Where does the rest of the premium go? Into the pockets of shareholders. Why aren't insurers called fat cats?

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    The public should know that its the insurance industry themselves that drives this market through the payment of referral fees. Direct Line made 21 million pounds through selling accident claims to their panel solicitors.

    Solicitors are prohibited from calling clients and any contact comes from a client requiring a solicitor. Be careful what you wish for as god forbid you have an accident

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    No quote from any lawyers, yet again. The BBC really is the mouthpiece for the insurance industry. The head of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers was interviewed on BBC TV and radio this week. How hard would it have been to get a quote from him to give a bit of balance to the article?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    66 Save the UK Couldnt agree more. Yes there are legit claims for whiplash but I too was bombarded after a no fault claim where a young man ran into the back of me but there were no physical injuries and this from a large reputable(!) company. Needless to say I refused and have changed my insurers but I suppose they need the extra revenue to pay for the TV ads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    The claims management companies illegally pass round names and addresses and if that is not illegal under the DPA it should be. I have further observations to make but previous attempts to say how the scam works and who has perfected it have been stuck out by the moderators. There can be no proper discussion without the facts, even if particular groups are singled out in the process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    @116. surfingkenny
    It wasn't the councils fault.
    If the road was cold - frosty, snow covered, a sheet of ice, any accident was YOUR fault for not driving for the conditions that are prevalent. I would advise winter tyres if you would rather not slow down - they are better than our all weathers in the cold.
    Mostly though, why not just slow down, calm down and drive properly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I find it encouraging that so many people refuse the overtures of these 'bent' claim companies. Simplistic, but it is not just the claims companies who are lying, but also the people who try for the money. Fraud is illegal and immoral. If you know you have not been injured but still claim you are setting yourself apart from the greater number of honest people on whom civilisation depends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    I was shunted once. A small 10mph shunt.

    It was the hospital that started the claim. They wanted their treatment costs back

    The insurance doctor I saw questioned my "3 days of pain" and said is was more likely 3 weeks, and that's what he wrote down.

    I stopped the claim after witnessing the wide corruption. I was told figures of £800-1000 near the end.

    Greed is not one of my attributes

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    @112. smilereg
    Not true, it is possible to tell whether someone is actually in pain or telling pork pies. Can tell from the bodies own reactions in the area concerned and from watching the brain.
    Simplest though is to watch a persons behaviour - not necessarily in front of the doctor but using the millions of otherwise pointless spy cameras everywhere (all with face recognition built in)

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Protecting your no claims bonus and accident record are of absolutely no interest to anyone in the chain of claims handling and insurance companies. Fraudsters and chancers think that exagerated injury and repair costs are a payday opportunity. Don't become a patsy for this scam, take action by fitting one of the many in car camera systems that are available.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    is right.

    I cannot blame people for seeing an open season on insurers who pay £2000 less than a vehicle's true value (as I found out a couple of years ago) and see such claims as a way of getting an accurate final payout sum in the end.

    That which ye sow, that shall ye reap. Insurers fraudulantly under pay so claimants overclaim to balance this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Access to fair claims through a lawyer will be all but impossible after April 1st (no lawyer wants to be sued for incompetence for quick under-settling or bankrupting themselves by investigating and fighting a fair settlement for £500) it's notable that the insurance companies will set compensation amounts. And retain their army of solicitors to fight victims who object these amounts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I would imagine the false claim are in the very high thousands. It is costing us a fortune, as are the stage insurance claims in crashes. Plenty of insurance scammers around and they are not all in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    False claims by those in authority... false claims...
    rings a bell somewhere....

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Interesting point not yet raised; observe how many motorists don't know how to adjust their head rests properly. In the same way that you shouldn't be able to claim for smashing your face on a windscreen for not wearing a seatbelt, you shouldn't be able to claim for whiplash if your seat isn't properly adjusted.

    I also bet genuine whiplash incidents would decrease if people used their mirrors!

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    New government legislation is required to curb this never ending spirel of no win no fee, whiplash should be removed from claims, and the insurers need to take more of these claims to court, not just set a scale of payment to settle the claim to avoid court proceedings it only encourages these merchants to jump on the band wagon at the expense of motorists particularly the young driver.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    I was involved in an accident (not my fault!), but when I phoned my insurers, after I gave them all my details their first question was "will you be making a personal injury claim?" It wasn't that they were checking i was OK, and when I said no, they asked "are you sure?" It seemed like they were almost encouraging me to submit a fraudulent claim through them. That can't be legal!

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    It is time to start prosecuting people who make false claims. It is remarkably easy to track down especially given the level of spy cameras deployed in the UK. With the head restraints and air bags I would expect 99.999% of whiplash claims to be false. It would not be unreasonable to recoup 4x the claim from the person and the claims company involved as well as 1 year in prison for both.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    4 weeks ago i came off the road on ice. no one was injured and the coucils failure to grit the roads as per was the direct cause. in the 4 weeks since then ive had over 20 calls from ambulance chasers, apparently my insurers sold my details in order for these folkt o get me to claim my OWN insurers for injury, ive been asked if i'd consider making one up for a claim. only in the uk !


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