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Friday, 18 January 2013

Mr. Straw - victims are not fraudsters

Former Labour Lord Chancellor Jack Straw is continuing his attacks on Personal Injury victims and their lawyers. In his most recent outburst this week he seems to suggest that all victims, medical experts and lawyers are fraudsters saying –

“An imaginative personal injury lawyer in league with an imaginative medical professional would just offer an alternative diagnosis, so the problem would move from whiplash to, say, lower back pain.”

This is in relation to proposals by the Ministry of Justice to increase the small claims limit for whiplash cases to £5,000 thus taking most of such claims outside legal representation. Straw has called for this to be applied across all Personal Injury cases. It is difficult to imagine a more ill conceived statement.

Firstly it is disturbingly misleading to suggest that all involved in claims are crooks! It is agreed on all sides that a small percentage of claims are not genuine. The figure is in the region of 7% -

All sides need to work together to eliminate such cases. But the vast majority are genuine and honest victims. How on earth will that figure be reduced by making it harder for them to get justice? And how will the courts deal with serious allegations of fraud via the Small Claims court which is really designed for straightforward consumer disputes? As soon as fraud is alleged the case would be taken out of that court in any event.

To read his comments you would think that insurers do not already fight bogus claims. Of course they do. Under the current system they are entitled to contest any medical evidence produced for the claimant and to obtain their own. Interestingly a former President of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) takes a similar view –

What is worrying is that Mr. Straw is a high profile figure and his comments, however bizarre, are widely reported and add to the myth that it is victims of accidents who are responsible for higher insurance premiums.

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