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Friday, 24 February 2012

Don't forget the victims

There seems to be news reports every day about the rising number of claims arising from motor accidents. From the rhetoric of some politicians and the media it would be easy to believe that this is the fault of victims.

Time and time again we are being told that there is a compensation culture which is causing insurance premiums to soar. Not surprisingly this agenda is driven by the insurance industry. Only last week the Prime Minister said - “I am determined to tackle this damaging compensation culture which has been pushing up premiums.’

What this means is that a victim of a motor accident somehow feels that they are to blame if they pursue a claim.

Try telling that to the family of Cerys Edwards whose life was destroyed by a speeding driver –

£5m in compensation might seem like a lottery win but in reality that will just about cover the care needs of a 6 year old for the rest of her life. For the injury itself the most that can be awarded is £265K. So if she lives another 40 years she will get just over £16 per day for being paralysed from neck down.

That is the problem with all of the talk about how much is spent on claims and how this affects premiums or the profits of insurance companies. The plight of victims becomes buried under the avalanche of rhetoric about a compensation culture that most commentators accept does not exist.

There will always be a small number of fake claims. They should be weeded out of the system by robust medical evidence and close screening by experienced solicitors. It is another myth of this debate that lawyers, who are not paid a penny in unsuccessful cases, are somehow encouraging spurious cases.

Anyone who is the victim of an accident caused by a driver, or any anybody else for that matter, should have access to independent legal advice.