Claimants should provide medical proof, MPs say

Car accident whiplash

A parliamentary inquiry into how to cut whiplash claims has found no evidence for the government’s assertion that the UK is the “whiplash capital of the world”.

The Transport Select Committee concluded there was no accepted objective test for a whiplash injury, no consensus about what constitutes fraud and no authoritative data available about the prevalence of fraud or exaggeration.

The committee, which publishes its report today, also obtained government figures showing that the number of whiplash claims has fallen in the past two years and is now lower than in 2007-08 – yet still higher than in 1999-2000.

However, it accepted that “some of the increase in the number of whiplash claims will have been due, in the main to fraud or exaggeration” and proposed a package of measures to reduce claims and tackle fraud.

These include:

·   a requirement for whiplash claimants to provide more information, such as proof that they saw a doctor or attended A&E after the accident

·         government steps to reduce the three-year period after an accident in which claims can be made

·        an accreditation scheme for medical practitioners who provide medical reports for whiplash claimants  - as proposed by the Ministry of Justice

·        an annual random audit of whiplash medical reports

·        medical reports to be made available to all parties

Committee chair Louise Ellman said:“Whiplash injuries can have debilitating consequences for those who suffer them. However, some of the increase in whiplash claims will have been due to fraud or exaggeration.

“To help bring insurance premiums down the Government must tighten up the requirements for motor insurance claims and ensure that insurers honour their commitment to reduce premiums.”

“The Government should consider requiring claimants to provide proof that they have either been seen by a doctor or attended A&E shortly after the accident. There should be a presumption against accepting claims where adequate proof of injury is not provided.”

The inquiry reviewed Ministry of Justice (MoJ) proposals for cutting whiplash claims and fraud that also included raising the threshold for cases to be dealt with in the small claims court – from £1,000 to £5,000 - and more sharing of data between insurers and lawyers.

But MPs rejected the proposal to increase the threshold on the grounds that it would reduce access to justice - especially for people who struggle to represent themselves -  and could create new opportunities for claims management companies to exploit.

The committee urged the government to go back to the drawing board and analyse whiplash statistics from the turn of the century along with claims involving other road traffic injuries to provide an explanation of the trends.

It called for a single ministerial lead to coordinate the effort to reduce the cost of motor premiums across government departments including health, transport and the MoJ, and the Competition Commission.

And it called on ministers to suggest ways of improving the collection of road accident data and to press the ABI to provide consistent, industry-wide data on fraudulent or exaggerated personal injury claims.

Insurers came in for criticism for paying out on whiplash insurance claims where no medical evidence had been provided and even when fraud or exaggeration was suspected. This damaged the industry as a whole and left motorists picking up the bill in higher premiums, the MPs said.

“Insurers must immediately put their house in order and end practices which encourage fraud and exaggeration,” the report states. “If not, the government should take steps to protect motorists.”

The insurance industry is estimated to face an annual bill of £2.2bn from whiplash claims, which add £90 to the average motor premium.