Accident Claims News
What Compensation Claims Culture?
Aug 2, 2013
It is clear that the continuing struggle to try and obtain clear information about the reasons for the rise in motor insurance premiums goes on. The UK Parliament’s Transport Select Committee have issued a third Cost of Motor Insurance Report, focussing on the impact of insurance premiums of claims for whiplash injuries, particularly concentrating on fraudulent or exaggerated claims. The report is a bit of a damp squib however, as the Select Committee concludes that there is insufficient data to allow it to form a definitive view, though a number of recommendations are made.
Dealing with the principal issue of whiplash injuries, the report comments that there is no generally accepted objective test for whiplash following a road traffic crash. It repeats the recommendation that all such claims for compensation should be backed up with a medical report commenting on the injured party’s attendance for medical treatment. However, it was at pains to state that “genuine claimants should not be demonised simply because their condition cannot be picked up on a scan.”
The practice of insurance companies attempting to settle injury claims without the necessity of a medical report (sometimes as early as a few days after a road traffic accident) is strongly criticised. It was felt that this could only encourage potential fraudulent claims, and Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Select Committee called on insurers to “immediately put their house in order and end practices which encourage fraud and exaggeration.”
Additionally, the Report raises a number of interesting policy issues. The insurance industry, and indeed the current Government, has often commented on the ground swell of a compensation claims culture, and the increasing numbers of fraudulent or exaggerated claims at the heart of that. While being critical of the availability of clear data, the Select Committee points out that the number of whiplash claims are presently at their lowest since at least 2008. Coupled with this, there is presently no industry accepted definition or classification of fraudulent and exaggerated claims, leading the report to conclude -
“The Government’s claim that the UK is the “whiplash capital of the world” cannot be conclusively proved or disproved from the international evidence which is available. It is surprising that the Government has brought forward measures to reduce the number of fraudulent or exaggerated whiplash claims without giving even an estimate of the comparative scale of the problem.”
It is therefore very encouraging that the report calls upon the Government to put together a strategic approach to the issue of fraud and premium pricing, and suggesting that the insurers provide clearer consistent data on the subject. Insurers are heavily criticised on this matter, having failed to provide information about the links that they have with solicitors, vehicle repairers, credit hire firms and other organisations from which referral fees were received.
“Clarity is the way in which the issue of fraudulent or exaggerated claims can be defeated,” said Ross Slater of Accidentclaims.com. “I welcome any attempts to root out fraudulent claims, and obtaining clear medical evidence is the best place to start. It is very disappointing that insurers feel they can circumvent this necessary part of the process by door-stepping injured parties. Obtaining clear medical advice about the injury, followed up by clear legal advice on the potential value of the claim is crucial.”