The insurer’s chief executive further believes policyholders may not reap the expected premium discounts following the implementation of part one of the whiplash reforms this May

The confirmed rules around part one of the whiplash reforms, effective from 31 May, are “complicated”, “cumbersome” and reflect “quite a big change”, according to Geoff Carter, chief executive of Sabre Insurance Group.

At the end of February, the government confirmed that the new Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal and a compensation tariff table for whiplash injuries following a road traffic accident would be launched on 31 May, after a number of deadline setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times following the publication of the Sabre’s full-year financial results last month, Carter said: “It’s fair to say the rules are pretty complicated. There’s 100 pages of rules that came out.

“There [are] still some things that are uncertain - for example, the prior thinking had been that whiplash would be the main claim element and then other injuries might get added on top. There is a risk that the other injuries, so the bruised knee, becomes the main thing you claim for and whiplash is the bit that’s added on.

“There’s potential for claims management companies and lawyers to take a slightly different approach to small injuries as a result of car crashes that might make things more confusing.

“The rules are pretty cumbersome, still we need to work our way through it. Quite a big change coming and coming fairly soon as well.”

Part of the initial thinking around the reforms was that it would create cost efficiencies, which would in turn mean reduced premiums for policyholders. However, Carter believes this is “certainly not worth as much as it was when this was first mooted”.

He said: “The industry claimed a number of about £30 premium discount. Since then, personal injury frequency is down a lot, so that by itself takes down the value and then secondly, you have to think about how might lawyer and claims management company behaviour impact the value as well.”

Preparedness for change

In terms of Sabre specifically, Carter said the firm is “as prepared as we possibly can be” for the incoming OIC portal, adding that the business’s smaller size makes the implementation process easier.

He explained: “All of our IT is ready, all of our people are ready, all of our training is done, but we’re going to have to refine that for the final rules.

“And I think we’ll be adapting, as with everyone else, for the next year as we start to see claims come through in this new format.

“This is the advantage of being small. All of our claims people sit on one floor within about 30 seconds walk of our claims director’s desk. So, it’s fairly easy to put in place and ensure they comply with new procedures and we think we have quite an advantage in this sort of environment.”

Sabre has around 160 staff in total.