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?