Whiplash Clampdown Likely To Impact Genuinely Injured, Solicitor Argues
A local legal expert has warned that a government crackdown aimed at reducing fraudulent whiplash claims could actually make justice harder for people with genuine injuries to obtain.
Earlier this week [Tuesday 11th December], the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP launched a four-month consultation into reducing the number of ‘fraudulent or exaggerated’ whiplash claims from people involved in road accidents. The proposals include introducing independent medical panels to assess the validity of whiplash claims, and enabling more cases to be challenged in small claims court by raising the threshold from the current level of £1,000 to £5,000.
Ministers argue the moves are necessary to curb the 1,500 whiplash claims made across the UK everyday, which insurers estimate cost £2 billion a year. However, Edmund Coxhead, Partner at PCB Solicitors, believes the proposals will actually make it more difficult for genuine claimants to pursue justice and receive the compensation they are entitled to.
“These proposed measures are in addition to a raft of changes already being introduced next April, including cutting access to legal aid, rebalancing ‘no-win, no-fee’ cases so losers don’t have to pay a fee to the claimant’s lawyer, the banning of referral fees, and stopping claims management companies from offering inducements to potential claimants, Edmund explained.
“While it is obviously correct for the government to try and put in place measures to deter fraud, and to limit the role of claims management companies, the wider implication of all these moves is that they seem to be designed to cut down on all claims, not just fraudulent ones. There’s a real danger they will actually affect the individuals they are trying to help – people who suffer genuine injuries. The consultation paper itself acknowledges that the changes could harm access to justice and mean victims with justified claims would either fail to claim proper damages, or not challenge unreasonable offers by insurers.
Edmund highlights the fact that just 7% of current whiplash claims are found to be fraudulent, while he also argues that drivers are highly unlikely to see any real impact on their car insurance premiums if the proposals are put in place.
“There is also a real sense that the so-called ‘compensation culture’ government ministers keep trying to tackle is something of a misconception. Indeed, we only have to look back to 2010, when a report from Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s then advisor on health and safety, concluded that it ‘did not believe there was a growing compensation culture… it is rather the public perception of one that stifles opportunities’.
“These proposed changes mean it has never been more important for people who have suffered genuine injuries to get advice straight from qualified legal experts, who have experience of dealing with such matters and a proven record of securing compensation for their clients, Edmund concluded.
The Ministry of Justice’s consultation into ‘Reducing the number of whiplash claims’ is set to run until 8th March 2013. The full consultation can be viewed at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/reducing-number-cost-whiplash.