Crackdown on whiplash claims urged
Insurers must "get their house in order" and end practices which encourage fraud and exaggeration in vehicle whiplash injury claims, a report by MPs has said.
Ministers should consider reducing the limitation period for road accident insurance claims, and require whiplash claimants to produce more supporting evidence, said the report from the House of Commons Transport Committee.
But genuine claimants should not be demonised and the assertion that the UK is the "whiplash capital of the world" cannot be proved or disproved, the MPs said.
The report also warned that access to justice could be impaired by Government proposals to switch whiplash claims between £1,000 and £5,000 to the small claims court, particularly for people who do not feel confident to represent themselves against insurers who will use legal professionals to contest claims.
The use of the small claims track could also prove counter-productive in efforts to discourage fraudulent and exaggerated claims as expert evidence is not generally submitted.
In their report the MPs said: "We were surprised to hear that insurers will sometimes make an offer to personal injury claimants even before a medical report has been received. We also note that our previous recommendation on making the links between insurers and other parties involved with claims more transparent has been ignored.
"Insurers must immediately get their house in order and end practices which encourage fraud and exaggeration. If not, the Government should take steps to protect motorists."
Launching the report, the committee's chairman 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."
Justice minister Helen Grant said: "Honest drivers should not have to bear the price of a whiplash claims system which has been abused and has contributed to increased insurance costs.
"We have already made major law changes to turn the tide on compensation culture to help ordinary people with the cost of living - and we have heard this week that insurance premiums are now falling as this starts to make an impact."