But government whiplash consultation divides opinion

Robin Spencer Aviva

The government’s long-awaited whiplash consultation, entitled Reducing the Number and Costs of Whiplash Claims, has drawn mixed responses from various quarters.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling announced further work by the government to ensure that genuine claims can still go ahead, but exaggerated or fraudulent claims are properly challenged.

The ABI was swift to applaud the proposals, which focus on raising the small claims limit for road traffic accidents in the small claims court, and the introduction of independent medical panels for judging whiplash injuries.

AA Insurance director Simon Douglas welcomed the plans. He said: “It has become increasingly okay to claim £2,000 or £3,000 for an injury even if there is none, or where a couple of pain-killers would have done the trick. You would think that British motorists have weaker necks than any other European nation.

Aviva also endorsed Grayling’s efforts. UK chief executive Robin Spencer (pictured) said: “This is a £2bn problem that is adding around £90 to every motorist’s insurance premium. Fundamental and far-reaching reform is needed to bring relief to genuine claimants, while eliminating the inherent costs of the thousands of spurious claims insurers receive every year.”

LV= technical claims director Martin Milliner said: “We welcome the new proposals, which will make it harder for bogus claimants to make fraudulent personal injury claims and will clamp down on the strong-arm sales tactics of some claims management companies. There will be some time before any new legislation is implemented and there is a probability that we could see a rush on these claims in the short term as fraudsters attempt to make a fast buck before the situation changes.”

Personal injury lawyers are stamping their feet, however, as the plans come before a raft of measures aimed at tightening up civil justice activity.

Antony Hodari chief executive Mark Grover said: “The government is approaching this problem from the wrong end. Though fraud is a problem, the vast majority of claims are legitimate; raising the small claims limit will just mean an injured person will have to go head-to-head in court against the insurer’s lawyer. How many of us would want to do that?”

Spencer’s Solicitors director John Spencer added: “This is cheap political point scoring, playing to the insurers’ tune about a so-called compensation culture and is nothing to do with responsible government.”

Glaisyers’ RTA supervisor Alison Rocca also criticised the plans. She said: “If the rise in the small claims limit is introduced, solely for people injured in road accidents, then this is the biggest impact on access to justice the country has seen because these injured victims will have no legal support when it comes to getting compensation for injuries suffered through no fault of their own.”