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Whiplash in the Commons: A ‘gear change’ towards greater transparency?

whiplash accidentIf road traffic accidents have existed since the invention of the combustion engine, then fraudulent insurance claims have never been far behind. The extent of fraudulent insurance claims have affected all motorists – good and bad – in the form of costly insurance premiums, but now it appears as though these claims are not solely limited to damages for whiplash.

‘Shocking’ News from the Association of British Insurers

Identifying fraudulent claims can be difficult, even for experienced personal injury lawyers, but the Association of British Insurers have recently identified ‘potentially dishonest practices’ who routinely commission doctors to compile expert evidence on psychiatric injuries that may stem from road traffic accidents. Since 2011, the number of psychological harm reports commissioned following motoring accidents has doubled despite the likelihood of these accidents resulting in actual psychiatric injury remaining slim. There can be no steadfast explanation for these statistics when clients seeking damages for a psychiatric injury must cross a significantly higher threshold than if they were solely claiming for whiplash. Accordingly, a totally understandable shock or reluctance to return to the roads will not suffice; insurers require evidence of a complex mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety neurosis.

The Commons’ Response

In a bid to cut down on these fraudulent claims, and the fraudulent practices that arise from them, the House of Commons’ Transport Committee has issued its response in the form of a fourth report on Motor Insurance Premiums. The Government hopes that the compulsory sharing of fraud data between the insurance and legal sectors will continue to push back insurance premiums, which have begun to dip since an all time high in 2010. This consistently downward trend could precede the end of the compensation culture that has beleaguered the legal services profession and everyone who has a genuine, as opposed to a fabricated, claim.

Car-Crash Legislation?

The AA, however, remains sceptical as these reforms are yet to be implemented; leaving their ability to generate transparency unknown at this point. One cannot deny that the Government is making steps in the right direction but their priority of sharing data has been criticized by practitioners as missing the target entirely. Lawyers recognize the reality that fraudulent claims have historically been made; and in all likelihood will continue to be made. Instead, they cite the need for medical boards designed specifically for post-accident diagnosis, which are crucially independent from both lawyers and insurers. This pragmatic approach is appealing, especially when the standard of transparency seems more elusive now than ever before.