Whiplash assessment report fees cut to tackle fake claims

A man with whiplash Image copyright Thinkstock

Medical assessment fees for people who claim they have suffered whiplash are to be cut in England and Wales.

The move is the latest government bid to crack down on fraudulent claims and the so-called "compensation culture".

Charges of up to £700 for an initial medical report will be reduced to £180, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said.

The government hopes a fixed rate will stop experts who produce the reports from having an incentive to encourage claimants to get unnecessary treatment.

About 500,000 whiplash insurance claims are made each year, many of which are thought to be bogus.

Insurers say they push up drivers' premiums by as much as £90 a year.

The new measures are the latest announced by the government to tackle bogus claims, with the new focus on compensation companies and a minority of medical staff who ministers claim are overcharging people.

'Drive out fraud'

"We're saying that doctors should be paid a fixed price for that work," Mr Grayling said.

"And we're saying that across the claims process we should have a structure that makes sure that people are paid for what they really do, that claims that go through are genuine and that we drive out some of the practices that are inflating insurance premiums unnecessarily."

He said the new rules - to be introduced in October - would reflect the amount of time it took to carry out the assessments and write them up.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Some 500,000 whiplash claims are made each year

"Honest drivers have been bearing the cost of a system that has been open to abuse and it is time for a change," he said.

"We are determined to have an improved, robust system for medical evidence - so genuine claims can still be settled but fraud is driven out of the market."

Whiplash is caused by sudden movement of the head which damages the ligaments and tendons in the neck, with symptoms including neck pain and stiffness.

Recent reforms in England and Wales have recently targeted "no win, no fee" deals, with lawyers now unable to double their fees if they are successful.

A number of changes are progressing through Parliament in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, including plans to stop law firms offering incentives to potential clients.

'Stubbornly high'

Other new rules include allowing courts to throw out any compensation case where part of the claim has proved to be fundamentally dishonest.

Mr Grayling said insurance companies would be urged not to accept claims without a doctor's report - evidence of an injury.

"Every time they accept a claim without a report, some of those that shouldn't be made are slipping through and that's just boosting insurance premium costs," he warned.

The AA said while premiums had dipped recently, the number of claims remained "stubbornly high" and that meant they could go back up.

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