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Government won’t stick its neck out on Whiplash Injury claims

June 21, 2013

The big news we were all waiting for this week was the Government’s announcement on the future of whiplash personal injury claims. And we’re still waiting.

Rather than come to any rash decision – the proposals were only tabled in mid-March – HMG would rather wait until the Transport Select Committee issue their findings on whiplash and the impact any ruling will have on the car insurance industry.

Another force majeure that may well have an impact on the outcome is the LASPO reforms.

Capped personal injuries claims only part of a bigger picture

The reforms are based on the Jackson recommendations, which cap the success fees on personal injury cases, RTA PI being only one aspect of reforms on a much wider scale.

Oral evidence to assist the Transport Select Committee reach its decision, alongside the 54 written submissions it has received, will first focus on the questions asked from a medical standpoint when considering the legality and ability to support whiplash injuries that make their way to court.

Amongst the witnesses presenting evidence are doctors with a focus on reporting legal objectives as well as medical reports on personal injury claimants.

Lloyd’s Market Association will table its suggestions for reform, which are quite outlandish. Maybe that’s what the sector needs.

Thatcham Research, who will shed light on the reforms through its investigations into car insurance repair, will also add another perspective.

Whiplash claims and the challenging thereof has invoked strong sentiment

Louise Ellman MP conceded that the whiplash claims debate has brought strong views to light from all sides wanting to be heard.

The government issued its proposals and each witness will give oral evidence about their interpretation of what the suggestions may mean for their sector of the industry.

How sympathetic Ellman, current chair of the TSC, will be given that her instinct led her to comment, in March, that “a lot of whiplash claims are fraudulent” only time will tell.

It was also suggested at the same conference for the ABI in March that many claims were only made at the prompting of personal injury solicitors cold calling prospects known to have been in a road traffic accident.

Conversely, it was recognised that there are passengers and drivers who do suffer genuine whiplash injuries and in the rush to purge the insure sector and the courts of the burden of false claims, the rights of genuine claimants must not be overlooked.

What we know the Government already thinks about whiplash

The five main categories that the TSC will be considering the written evidence for are:

  • Is the UK the global whiplash capital?
  • Do whiplash claims cost each car owner an extra £90 per annum in insurance premiums and, percentage-wise, how much of that cost is made up by fraudulent claims?
  • Will being able to challenge medical evidence reduce premiums if successful and by how much?
  • How will the genuinely injured’s access to justice proposals impact on proceedings?
  • Can motor insurance premiums be brought down in some other way, if whiplash claims are proved not to be the source of such high insurance costs, all being borne by the car owner at the insistence of the insurance industry?

It’s easy to see how some of those arguments will emote certain sectors to defend or accuse accordingly. But what will the outcome be?

Should the government, given that its logic is transparent based on the proposals it’s tabled, just go ahead and make the decisions or are they right to wait until the TSC has examined all of the oral and written evidence being presented to them this week?