’The increase of wrist, elbow and knee claims has to be a real concern,’ the chief executive and managing partner of Horwich Farrelly warned 

The insurance sector faces a “serious” question over the treatment of non-tariff personal injury claims following road traffic accidents, specialist insurance law firm Horwich Farrelly’s chief executive and managing partner has said.

Ronan McCann told Insurance Times that the move to a tariff system for whiplash injuries had been a big plus for insurers, but also created a new threat for those joint injuries that fell outside of it.

His comments follow the UK Parliament’s Justice Select Committee’s recent call for evidence on the impact of the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) whiplash reforms and associated Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal.

The OIC allows litigants in person to process their own whiplash injury claims following a road traffic accident, with claims awards based on a corresponding tariff table that aligns compensation with injury recovery times.

However, McCann claimed wrist, elbow and knee injuries now made up close to 70% of claims, having comprised around 30% of total claims prior to the implementation of the OIC tariff system.

He warned claimants and their solicitors could be moving away from whiplash claims to those joint claims not covered – and therefore limited – by the tariff system.

“Insurers need to ask themselves a serious question as to whether they will take a tough stance against these claims,” McCann added.

“If not, they run the risk of the claims simply becoming accepted as part and parcel of the personal injury system by the courts.”

‘Back to square one’

McCann was part of the legal team that acted on behalf of insurer Esure to bring the first successful contempt of court civil case against a failed claimant.

This legal approach has now been adopted by many insurers in an effort to deter fictitious claims.

Despite the work to mitigate fraudulent claims, McCann warned that the industry could end up in the same situation it found itself a decade ago, when whiplash claims were running seemingly unchecked, if it did not address the growing problem of mixed injury claims.

He explained: “It took the insurance industry and its legal teams years of hard work to create the situation where whiplash claims were not simply accepted as fact.

“Insurers really need to make a choice – my personal view is that you do not want to simply make an offer.

“The increase from 30% to 70% of wrist, elbow and knee claims has to be a real concern and, in my view, we have to face the situation that some of these claims may not have been and will not be genuine.

“We cannot afford these claims to become normalised in the courts – if we do not take a stand, all the work and the hard earned whiplash reforms will go out of the window.

”We will just be back to square one.”