Many of us have spent the last few weeks watching the election campaign. So it might have been easy to miss one news item which seems to have slipped in under the radar. This is the announcement from the AA Insurance that motor insurance premiums are set to rise. And according to a report in the Daily Mirror, the cause of the increase is…yes you guessed it … fake whiplash claims!
It makes you begin to wonder how much blood insurers can get from this particular stone.
This is a saga which goes back more than two years. In 2013 we saw drastic cuts to the rights of victims of motor accidents. These included slashing the amount of legal fees recoverable from insurers, causing many victims to lose up to 25% of their compensation.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and others took judicial review proceedings at the time to try and block the cuts. Although that action failed, it was clear from the evidence that the government and the insurance industry had worked closely together on the project.
The rhetoric and the attacks have continued relentlessly. We have seen report after report on the need to clamp down on claims. Just this month, victims have lost the right to instruct their own medical experts and to use a panel of approved doctors. The fees payable to such experts have also been cut.
All of this has happened against the background of rhetoric designed to make any victim of a motor accident feel like a criminal.
Back in 2013 all of us who pay high motor insurance premiums were told that these steps would see a drop in price.
Former MOJ Minister Helen Grant explained the thinking behind the cuts –
“These proposals were advanced in a consultation exercise which closed on 4 January (2013) and, together with wider civil law reforms, are intended to make lawyers’ costs proportionate, and create an environment where insurers can pass on savings to their customers through lower premiums.”
Most of us were sceptical that we would ever see any reduction. I must confess I thought that we might get a pre election series of cuts. Instead, we have this news of premium rises, when we all have our eyes somewhere else.
The reality is that we were never going to see any significant drop in the cost of motor insurance. The government and insurers have very effectively squeezed the life out motor claims. You would have thought that they could have come up with a more imaginative excuse for further rises.