Insurance companies want the government to crack down on solicitors who are one of the driving forces behind a 2 billion industry claiming compensation for whiplash injuries following motor accidents.
Britain has become the whiplash capital of Europe, with an average 1,200 claims a day.
Whiplash accounts for 75% of the UK’s motor insurance claims – the average for the rest of Europe is 40%.
Solicitors pick up 88p for every 1 their clients receive and the insurance companies feel the government should peg their fees to keep car insurance premiums down.
Besides the insurance cost, treating whiplash also costs the NHS 8 million a year.
Whiplash is neck pain caused after stretching soft tissue in the following a forceful jerk. Whiplash is often caused in road accidents when a vehicle comes to a sudden stop throwing the driver and passengers forward.
Scores of no win – no fee legal firms have set up to chase whiplash compensation claims, which is the main reason why claim figures and the amount of compensation awarded has risen.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI), which represents most of the UK’s major insurance companies, says whiplash claims account for 14% of every driver’s premium – or an average 66 a year.
Claims are up 25% over the past five years, with 430,000 cases reported in 2007.
The ABI claims whiplash reports are rising at the same time as government figures show roads are becoming safer.
The ABI also cite poor driving, badly adjusted head restraints and doctors giving out medical certificates too easily to patients with no real injury as other reasons contributing to high claims.
To put the problem in to perspective, only just over 70,000 workplace accident injury claims are made each year.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) blames organised fraud, which is where an innocent motorist is crashes in to the back of the fraudster’s vehicle when they pull up sharply in front of them.
The accidents are followed by claims against the innocent motorist’s insurance for fictitious whiplash injuries often by people who were not even in the fraudster’s vehicle.
The IFB has calculated these bogus claims net about 200 million a year.
Although no one supports fraud, the argument that insurance companies are losing too much money because people are claiming compensation from policies designed to pay out if they are injured in a car crash seems trite.
The ABI stance looks more like sour grapes because solicitors are effectively working for their clients to claim compensation and getting paid for the results.
The fact that people get a solicitor to help them deal with an insurance claim of whiplash speaks volumes about people’s lack of trust in insurers to be treated fairly. If insurers want to reduce costs, blaming claim-happy solicitors seems a bit hypocritical as it is the insurer’s refusal to pay out in most instances that demands a solicitor be involved.