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 175.

    If there are a serious number of neck injuries, then car seats need better neck supports, following motor racing practice. Claims should be handled by lawyers selected impartially from a pool, by random selection process.
    Legal costs are a blight, in need of radical review.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Dodgy solicitors and claim firms are behind the rise: I've lost count of the offers I've had to claim compensation for me when I've never had an accident in the first place

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    The problem is not individuals making spurious claims. It is insurance companies and associated claim handling companies who try and inflate claims including providing courtesy cars when not required for crazy lengths of time. This is the biggest scam. They actually try and persuade people involved in minor shunts to make whiplash claims! The industry stinks and they are trying to deflect blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Just for the record, the insurance industry will see a huge saving (@£500m per annum ) in their costs of paying out for these claims and have already stated that they will not decrease premiums, so therefore the myth relating to fraudulent and exaggerated claims increasing premiums has now been exposed as a lie. Additionally, there are fewer claims now than there were 10 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    MP's to examine why the sky is blue and the grass is green. Why not just build a huge furnace and employ someone to shovel money into it all day, the end result will be much the same,.,.,.,.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    This whole story is just a pain in the neck if you ask me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Again its the greed of the Legal Profession encouraging litigation over inappropriate circumstances to profit from others misfortune, it is that industry which should be severely regulated.

    In the case of over zealous lawyers acting in their own interest rather than their clients they should be banned and imprisoned, it is simply evil & they know it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    My cousin had a minor road accident & was shortly after contacted by three dfferent firms of lawyers he'd never heard of before, all encouraging him to make a claim.

    His only conclusion was that someone at his or the other guys insurers had passed on his details.

    If whiplash cases are driving up the cvost of insurance it seems the insurers themselves are complicit in this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Too many people don't have their seats adjusted properly and don't pay attention to what's going on around them. Some claims are genuine but many are just seen as a way to get some holiday money

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Insurance has become a wholesale scam run by the insurers, who are taking advantage of the current 'obsession' of no gov't intervention/legislation in business - i.e. red tape.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    'MPs to investigate impact of whiplash claims'

    When I first read this headline I thought - not another story about John Major and Eggweena Currie

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Now this is work that MP's really are suited to - their extensive experience in fraudulent claims provides an ideal grounding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    If insurers say they want to make things easier for claimants, you may be sure they expect to pay less. 20 years ago there were no claim co.s; they could be banned but that would affect those insurers which own them. No reason to stop people who have been injured by careless drivers from being properly compensated

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    We all know the unwritten rule if you are in an accident and its the other persons fault go and see a quack and tell them about the neck problem and you get free money.

    There were people trying to get other cars to hit them deliberately in Bradford a couple of years ago!

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Its a bit like PPI. If I had £1.00 for every call or email I'd received, I could afford a really good family holiday now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    If people are going to claim for whiplash and other minor injuries it should only be the cost of treatment and should be paid directly to the provider of such treatment. Compensation needs to only be paid where severely live changing conditions have occurred which prevent people working or have to adapt their home etc to live. Too many people want free money all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Personal injury law firms are full of low grade legal advisors pecking at any legal detritus which comes along. These "greedy lawyers" are generally not solicitors or barristers except for the odd overseer cracking the whip and most of these would not be employed elsewhere in the legal profession. In any event its dishonest motorists which fuel the system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    @156 martiniqueen

    Sometimes it is just fishing. I quite often get text messages saying that their company has reviewed my recent accident and I can claim £3500,

    I have not had a Bl**dy accident!

  • Comment number 157.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    I would like to know where these 'No win, no fee' companies get their information? My ice-related accident didn't even touch an insurance company, but I did end up at the they sit in A&E?, hack the computers? I had too many calls for it just to be fishing.


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