/ Money, Motoring

Whiplash claims are a pain in the neck

MPs are on their soapbox again about personal injury claims. The Transport Select Committee wants to make it harder for people to claim for whiplash by requiring objective medical evidence. Have they got a point?

Today MPs called to reduce the number of whiplash claims made after car accidents. The Transport Select Committee wants more insurance companies to challenge claims, and if they don’t the government may have to change the law.

The Committee’s chairman, Louise Ellman, said that a claimant should have to provide objective evidence for both the whiplash injury and whether this has had a significant effect on their life, before any compensation is handed out.

The pressure to make a bogus claim

Last year Jack Straw, the former Justice Secretary, criticised the insurance sector for encouraging a claims culture among consumers. And he had good reason – around 70% of personal injury claims centre on whiplash.

Whiplash payouts cost us all, as the sheer amount of successful claims drive up the cost of car insurance premiums. This is all because people who have had an accident are then prompted to reconsider whether their neck actually aches. If it does then they could be in for a windfall, making the temptation to play act pretty high – especially given that we’ll probably never claim on the insurance we’re all paying for.

In some cases the authority that opens potential claimants’ eyes to a personal injury claim isn’t the insurer. It’s been proved that the police, garages and medics have all signposted people to make a claim. Commenter Ekc told us on our previous whiplash Conversation:

‘Years ago I was in an accident and my car scooted across the road and ended up on the pavement, luckily no-one was hurt. I was dazed and had a bit of an achy knee. The policeman that came round more or less suggested I should claim for whiplash.

‘As I had no whiplash I would not do this but it shows how easy it is when the police is behind you all the way. Stop the advertising of injury lawyers.’

To claim or not to claim?

So, what to do? Well, if you have been legitimately injured as a result of a road traffic accident, claim, claim, claim away, that’s your right. But if you haven’t, don’t! Every spurious claim adds pounds to all our insurance premiums, so it’s a false economy and morally wrong.

However, the Transport Select Committee’s idea to require objective medical evidence for whiplash claims may not work in practice. It’s very hard for medical experts to prove whether someone sustained injuries to their neck during a particular car accident. And it might be downright impossible to offer a categorical diagnosis months down the line when your case reaches the courts.

This means that such a requirement might negatively impact legitimate whiplash claims. Nonetheless, it’s downright wrong to invent an injury.

Perhaps the Transport Select Committee’s comments will garner enough support to ban the practice of encouraging dodgy whiplash injuries. It must be wrong to use insurance to gain a windfall at the expense of our fellow drivers, mustn’t it?

Comments
Member

I was involved in a car accident last March where a young driver, doing double the speed limit, failed to stop and hit me from behind in queuing traffic.

This caused significant stress, not only because it was my father’s car (!!) but also because of the legal minefield that followed.

Needless to say, following this injury I didn’t decide lightly whether I should pursue a claim for personal injury, despite my insurers insistence. Eventually I put in a claim and have spent months and months waiting for the legal process to end. Now that it has, my solicitors costs are more than 20% what I was offered as compensation.

If you want to reduce the costs, dear old government, create a streamlined cheaper solution for claiming with the corresponding medical evidence (which I should add, I was given by an independent doctor). Oh, and whilst you’re at it, take these crazy drivers off the road too.

Member

Actually, I made a typo. My solicitors costs are more than 20% higher than I was offered as compensation.

That’ll teach me to forget about proof-reading.

Member

If your solicitors were handling your case on a ‘no win no fee’
basis, there is nothing to worry about any costs reasonably incurred,
including Counsel’s fees, in pursuit of your claim.

You did not say which track of the County Court your
claim was brought under.

Not unusual both solicitor’s and Counsel’s fees exceed actual
damages recovered, whether or not case proceeds to trial.

Member

Hi, my worry is not about the legal costs being incurred to me as such. As you quite rightly point out, these are recovered from the third party.

My point here is that it’s the legal firms making a pretty penny out of it all and that they encourage such claims knowing it’ll make them a fortune. In the meantime, it’s costing the insurance industry a fortune and driving up the premiums for everyone. Find a way to make these cases less appealing to solicitors (eg less money!) and you’ll soon find case numbers dropping.

Member

Personal injury solicitors and Counsel on contentious civil cases
make their living that way, I’m afraid…it’s their bread and butter.

Won’t say such lawyers are making a ‘pretty penny’ or a ‘fortune’,
those I know work very hard to earn their fees that I know for a fact
…. of course in any trade or profession there are rogue elements
within and it’s for outside/professional bodies to control or regulate, and
ultimately are themselves answerable to the law like everyone
else.

Of course, in any trade or profession, some may be making
more money than others, as being more successful. But that is a
fact of life.

Member

To me it is simple

Have fixed compensation and legal fees – That would make it far less attractive for lawyers to “car chase” as they now do. Then car premiums would fall to the benefit of car owners with a probability the insurance companies start to make a reasonable profit.

Member
Nick Martin says:
13 January 2012

Last year I had a minor collision with another car causing a small scratchlike dent in the side. I offered to pay for the repair as the damage was small and I did not want to affect my no claims. I never heard any more directly but needed to fill in a claim form. Later on enquiring from my insurance I found that the total claim by the other party was for £900 including the replacement of a broken rear lighting plastic unit. Luckily I had taken a picture of the damage which clearly showed the perfectly undamaged rear lighting unit so I forwarded that to my insurance.
I have heard nothing further from my insurance but this does show a level of corrupt practice in the car insurance sphere

Member
Anon the mouse says:
14 January 2012

Whiplash claims following car accidents are now so standard that there is a whole hidden “money making scheme”. An average claim for whiplash is between £2k and £3k depending on the severity of the accident.

Unscrupulous drivers that purposely hit the brakes and drive erratically in front of other drivers trying to get hit in the back so they can claim whiplash. I know of someone that has insurance premiums of £2,000 per year as they do this. Their solution, have another bump to pay the insurance.