We are all familiar with the cries of ‘dodgy claims' ‘ambulance chasers’ ‘UK claims culture’ that permeate not only from certain national newspapers and the insurance industry but indeed the UK government. Is this really a true reflection of 21st century Britain?
A report recently published by the Commons Transport Select Committee following an inquiry into the costs of motor insurance and the effect of whiplash claims certainly would beg to differ. The report, which will come as a surprise to many, concluded that the number of whiplash claims had actually fallen since 2010-211 and was now lower than at any time since at least 2007-08. Further, a report prepared by the workers’ health journal ‘Hazards’ has also shown that the number of people receiving awards for work related injuries or diseases has fallen by 60% over the last decade.
In response to the report TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady has been quoted as saying "the government is trying to brainwash people into thinking the UK has a rife compensation culture." The select committee considered that the government's claim that the UK is the "whiplash capital of the world” cannot be conclusively proved or disproved; this begs the question why there has been so much hysteria generated both by the media, the insurance industry and parliament?
Looking at the situation from a simplistic view point one could consider that low value whiplash claimants are an easy target on a par with alleged 'benefit scroungers' who allegedly milk our benefits system and immigrants allegedly taking 'UK jobs.' However, a simplistic view is not a fair one and certainly not representative. For every alleged fraudulent or exaggerated whiplash claim it is reasonable to assume that there are at least another 1,000 genuine claimants who are seeking compensation for injuries which they are entitled to. Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson in response to the report said: "Every whiplash claim, like any other claim, should be properly considered. Most are genuine; whiplash can cause life-changing injuries and accident victims deserve proper compensation."
The government has made its intention clear that it seeks to reduce the number of low value personal injuries claims. It has already reduced substantially the fees that solicitors can claim for dealing with such claims and further by seeking for an increase in the personal injury limit of the small claims track from £1,000 to £5,000. However, the report by the transport select committee also advised against this stating that access to justice was likely to be impaired. It is comforting to hear some sensible words and we can only hope that the government will listen to the conclusions of the report.
Click here for the full report of the Transport Select Committee.