The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) came out fighting in a bid to save the genuine claimant’s access to justice, when they revealed that staggeringly over the last year the number of whiplash claims has in fact decreased by 60,000 which is nearly 11%.
For too long now we have heard how whiplash claims are too high and we have witnessed the government and Chris Grayling falling for the charms of the insurers, promises of reduced premiums in exchange for fixed recoverable cost reductions, referral fee bans and a decrease in the small claims limit. Now these figures released in response to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into whiplash have blown the argument regarding the alleged ‘claims culture’ apart.
APIL revealed the decrease after issuing a freedom of information request to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and were keen to get the opinions and clear up the facts in their submission to the inquiry that has so far heard the usual propaganda from the insurance industry representatives, including the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Lloyds Market Association (LMA).
The figures show that in 2012/13 whiplash claims in Great Britain stood at 488,261 compared with 547,405 the previous year and are at their lowest since 2008/09.
APIL president Matthew Stockwell said: “The transport committee inquiry finally presents a real chance to challenge hackneyed and groundless propaganda about whiplash-related injuries which has been promulgated by the insurance industry for far too long.”
In their submission APIL also detailed that previous projections from the ABI claiming that Britain was “Europe’s Capital of Whiplash” were based on studies that were 9 years old and relied on data that was even older.
The ABI had claimed this based on figures that according to APIL‘s findings did not fairly represent the proportion of vehicles on the road in Britain compared to the other countries in Europe.
According to the World Banks report in 2008 the amount of vehicles on the roads was around 79% more per kilometre compared with the European average, including Germany, Spain and France. Therefore with more cars on the road, there will is more likely to be slow moving traffic, which in turn increases the likeliness of small scale road traffic accidents occurring making it unfair to compare with the lesser populated European roads.
Within the submission Mr Stockwell also highlighted the fact that the private motor insurance industry was currently under investigation from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and raised the issue that the ABI had previously indicated that 29% of car insurance premiums is used to pay for repair costs and replacement vehicles, a practice that the OFT branded ‘dysfunctional’.
He said: “The OFT has found that insurers’ approach to car repair and replacement may push up premiums for drivers by £225m a year. This combines with insurers’ staffing and overhead costs, accounts for more than half of the average premium, and this is where the mischief lies.”
“The debate has been mired in myth and hyperbole for far too long. Whiplash injuries are real, they are painful, and independent research (conducted for APIL) has found that one in five sufferers have symptoms lasting more than a year. That’s the reality. The fact that the transport committee is now taking a hard look at some of the myths is extremely welcome.”
APIL went on to accuse the insurance industry of conjuring up the belief that this mantra existed in order to restrict the number of claims that can be made, and to get the government to cut costs in order for them to make increased profits. At no point was there any consideration for the genuine claimant and what they stood to lose throughout this propaganda building.
There is no doubt that fraudulent claims exist within the personal injury industry and APIL openly accept this fact but the government’s approach to dealing with fraud has been based on dated figures and myth created by the insurance industry who are only interested in lining their pockets, and the government have been fooled into believing these myths and implementing over-exuberant cuts to costs without real foundation.