Just over a month ago, the 25th April to be exact, the government released figures as forced by the Freedom of Information request by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) which showed an 11% decrease in whiplash claims between 2011/12 and 2012/13, which is the lowest since 2008 to 2009 and would certainly suggest an increase in the small claims limit was not necessary.
Today, insurance led figures released by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), showed that whiplash claims had increased 5% in proportion to accidents involving Third Part Injury (TPI) claims from 2011 to 2012 and that 90% of all motor insurance TPI claims in England and Wales in 2012 were for small claims like whiplash.
One of the authors of the IFoA report said: “The data we have collected for the last four years clearly shows a decrease in the number of accidents, Third Party Damage (TPD) claims, and you would expect that to correspond with a decrease in the number of injuries, TPI claims; instead we have seen an increase in injury claims. This could mean that people are driving less safely. However police data shows that the number of motor accidents involving casualties has decreased. The other conclusion that you can draw is that claims farming is on the increase.”
So what do you believe? Well press releases like this are certainly enough for certain newspapers to wield out their favourite stock image of a certain woman clutching her neck in order to create a storm of hate towards personal injury lawyers but facts are facts and the telling fact here is one figure is based on official government figures and the other is taken from motor insurance data only, and could definitely be seen as propaganda to sway the judgement of the government when they decide whether or not to increase the small claims limit.
Then, if you take into account the last point regarding police data showing that the number of accidents involving casualties decreasing, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that in most cases of road traffic accidents, when there are injuries of smaller type such as whiplash, the police are rarely contacted as they are not caused by multi-car pile ups, or in most cases drivers speeding. They are caused more often than not by overpopulated road spaces and shunts, so the fact this has been overlooked pushes the propaganda theory further.
The timing of this report all seems to coincidental as well, what with the government currently waiting the outcome of a certain whiplash inquiry and baring in mind the governments recent track record of aligning themselves with the insurance industry and ignoring the data they have gathered by themselves, as was done with the Fenn report, you would not be wrong to expect the government to miraculously find favour with the insurance sector on this dispute and for more industry damaging changes, such as increasing the small claims limit, to be made.
Indeed when you look at said newspaper reports, regarding these latest figures it is clear to see that it serves its purpose, with people criticising ‘ambulance chasing lawyers’ or corrupt solicitors but at the end of the day when you have a rear end shunt or your car is involved in a bump when perhaps you are not even in the car, perhaps a wiser idea is to think back and think about who the only people you informed about the accident was?
Yes the insurance company who, with your best interests at heart, sold your information on to the claims management companies (CMCs), who, back in the days of referral fees, contacted you, encouraged your information and then sold on your claim to the solicitor.
Press releases of propaganda like this can go a long way to painting the solicitor in the worst light but every process has to start somewhere and in most cases when it comes to accidents, it is the insurers who are the first to hunt for the profit.
Post-1st April 2013 and the referral fee is no more and that’s not the only thing that is perishing fast.
The truth is, if the government is influenced by the latest figures released by the IFoA and does decide to ignore their own official ones, and raise the small claims limit, then it will be the genuine accident victim who will be hit the hardest.
So if, later down the line you are ever unfortunate enough to suffer as a result of an accident that wasn’t your fault, which causes you enough pain and stress that you are forced out of work or you can’t fulfil the everyday pleasures that your life may carry, whether it is the sport you love to play or even so much as holding your own child. You might just find you come to miss the personal injury lawyer who allowed you to claim the compensation you deserved in order to aid your recovery.