Thursday, May 03, 2012

Insurer led government "crackdown" on whiplash claims

The big legal news this week concerned the so called crackdown on fraudulent whiplash claims which according to some observers, costs the average motorist £90 per year in extra premiums.

I have no problem with insurers going on the attack where fraud is concerned. The term "crash for cash" is commonly heard nowadays but this concept is often wrongly applied to all whiplash claims including those cases involving serious debilitating injury.

In my career (Im a personal injury lawyer in case you didnt know) I have come across a 3 types of claimant when it comes to whiplash compensation matters:

1) The genuinely injured: categorised by those who take time off work, need physio and generally are in some difficulty with their injuries.

2) Those with minor injuries who think it is their right to claim even where low grade harm has been suffered.

3) Fraudsters with no injury at all but who know they can get away with pretending there is one.

Cat 1& 2 claimants are in my view justified in bringing their claims. There is a genuine injury and if they have suffered a degree of pain / suffering ... it follows this should be compensated for.

Cat 3 claimants can be spotted a mile away and should be dealt with.

The question for our industry is ... what can we do to help here..?

I would suggest the following:

Senior management within the law firm should make it a priority to root out time wasters and fraudsters

They should reward staff for doing this rather than castigate them for "losing" a client.

Lawyers should accept that low velocity impacts - unless in extreme circumstances - ought not to result in a claim. Set the causation bar high in these cases.

Lawyers should run fraud checks of their own and have access to the CRU database to review a claimants history.

Finally lawyers should use tried and trusted medical experts who can themselves nail a dodgy claimant - the claimant should be charged the medical experts fee where fraud has been unearthed. The man down the pub who told you to try it on and claim will not be the one paying your £300 medical fee if it goes wrong. Word gets out, people think twice.

I actually believe that the legal industry should regulate these claims more closely rather than allow the defendant lobbyists to take control and more importantly take the high ground.

The real question is ... are senior people at the top of the law firm tree prepared to clean up this industry from within..?

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