INSURERS must “get their house in order” and end practices which encourage fraud and exaggeration in vehicle whiplash injury claims, a report by MPs says today.
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.
However, 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 south of the Border could be impaired by UK 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 counterproductive in efforts to discourage fraudulent and exaggerated claims as expert evidence is not generally submitted.
In Scotland, there are plans to switch personal injury cases from the Court of Session to a new dedicated court.
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 [UK] government must tighten up the requirements for motor insurance claims.
“There should be a presumption against accepting claims where adequate proof of injury is not provided.”
The number of fraudulent and exaggerated whiplash claims has contributed to the increase in motor insurance premiums in recent years.
The Scottish Government said there was less scope for exaggerated cases in Scotland. A spokeswoman said: “The law of damages and the court system are devolved.
“Many of the concerns about the aggressive claims culture in the rest of the UK relate to the fact that they removed legal aid for personal injuries some years ago, and put in place incentives like success fees to encourage no-win no-fee arrangements with lawyers instead.
“In Scotland, although lawyers take on no-win no-fee cases, the payment incentives are less lucrative.
“The Scottish Government has asked Sheriff Principal James Taylor to review funding of litigation in Scotland.
“This includes claims management and contingency fees, and he reports next year.”