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Whiplash – New Car Insurer Proposals

Whiplash – New Car Insurer Proposals

The Association of British Insurers tell us that there are some fifteen hundred whiplash insurance claims every day. As a result Britain is known as the whiplash capital of Europe and the effect on individual car insurance premiums is to raise them by around £90 per annum on average. Now that really is a pain in the neck.

We all know that a lot of this is down to criminal activity or the interest in short term gain by the terminally stupid but some claims are also legitimate. We all want something done about this scourge but at the same time the solution has got to be fair. To put our plight into perspective the figures quoted by the ABI state that 70% of road accident personal injury claims in the UK are for whiplash, compared with 47% in Germany, 32% in Spain and, intriguingly, only 3% in France.

The ABI have put forward a set of proposals for discussion. They suggest that all such claims undergo a rigorous medical assessment by an accredited expert who would have to show their complete financial independence from solicitors. The assessment should take into account the circumstances of the crash rather than just taking people’s word for it. Because whiplash is so hard to diagnose, the examiners should be trained in the very latest diagnostic techniques.

The accreditation of the medical experts should be handled by a board comprised of government, judiciary, claimant interest groups, insurers and other medical experts. This sounds suspiciously like a committee that could grow into a quango but it does seem the best course of action for now. This board of luminaries would standardise the procedure.

The ABI also suggest that the threshold for Small Claims rise from £1000 to £5000 as a speedy and effective way of settling smaller amounts. Finally, there should be a prescribed and unbreakable scale of damage awards, set independently. Any exaggerated or spurious claims would be dismissed automatically and completely.

The problem is that whiplash is hard to diagnose so any system could still be open to abuse or, conversely, treat honest claimants unfairly. It is a tricky path to tread but the ABI is not wrong when it says that something must be done. At least with a system like this everyone knows where they stand and anything that cuts fraud and reduces (hopefully) insurance premiums has got to be a good thing.

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- who has written 474 posts on Motor Blogger.

Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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