I mentioned on Wednesday that the Parliamentary Select Committee’s Report on Whiplash claims contained some comfort for victims and their lawyers.
A more detailed read of the report gives further hope. Until now, the insurance industry has gone virtually all it has asked for from the present government. I have said before that they seemed hell bent on delivering the heads of victims on a plate for their insurance friends.
The report pulls no punches in criticising the conduct of insurers. One recurring theme is that many claims are not genuine. Despite this many insurers make what are known as pre-med offers. These are offers to settle which are made without a medical report. The committee was very critical of this behaviour –
‘We were surprised to hear that insurers will sometimes make an offer to personal injury claimants even before a medical report has been received. Insurers said that this illustrated the dysfunctionality of the current system because of the costs involved in defending claims…..Insurers must immediately put their house in order and end practices which encourage fraud and exaggeration. If not, the Government should take steps to protect motorists.’
The committee heard evidence that some insurers even pay out in cases where they suspect fraud. They accepted the recommendation of Liverpool Law Society that - "at the very least insurers should be required to consider whether it is appropriate to continue to pay compensation on claims that are considered to be fraudulent or exaggerated".
One thing that is often overlooked here is that fraudulent claims harm everybody. They harm genuine victims and their lawyers, they harm motorists who ultimately pick up the cost and yes they harm insurers. We have a common interest in weeding them out. This can be achieved by openness between the legal profession and insurers. Again the committee was concerned about the conduct of insurers – “Insurers and lawyers have a strong interest in preventing fraud so it is disappointing to hear legal witnesses say that progress in data sharing has been slow. We recommend that the Government encourage both parties to establish collaborative arrangements aimed at identifying and deterring potentially fraudulent claims.”
We are also being promised that cuts in victims rights are needed to reduce insurance premiums I know I’m not the only person who has serious doubts that we will ever see any serious reduction –
The committee shared those doubts saying – ‘We recommend that the Government explain how it will monitor whether or not motor insurers honour their commitment to ensure that any cost reductions resulting from proposed legal reforms are passed through to consumers in the form of lower premiums.’
So where does these leave victims who are inured in motor accidents through no fault of their own? The world has not changed over night. There are still major hurdles to overcome.
The most encouraging thing to come from the report is that it is written by a committee made up of MPs from all the main parties. When lawyers campaign, we are accused by the media of looking after own interests. This report shows that our concerns are genuine and that it is about time the government began to listen.