The Head of Motor and Liability for the Association of British Insurers (ABI), James Dalton (pictured) has dismissed the argument against raising the small claims limit for personal injury to £5,000 and claimed it was easy to make a case for reform for the compensation system due to it being ‘simply inconceivable’ that the 500,000 plus whiplash claims per year were genuine.
Writing on the ABI‘s website, James Dalton said that there was a growing recognition that there was a difference between the claimant’s interest and the interests of the claimant’s lawyer and launched an offensive against the Personal Injury sector.
He said: “Naturally there has been a howl of protest from the personal injury lawyers who can see that the gravy train of excessive fees may soon hit the buffers.
“Yes, work will need to be done to make sure claimants understand their rights in a new system and how they can file a claim. And yes consumers will need to be able to put a value on the injury they have suffered, which is why they have argued in favour of a transparent, independently controlled and regulated, software-based system to assess general damages awards. But, given time and willing, that shouldn’t be too difficult to deliver.
“People are starting to recognise that the claimant’s interest and the interests of the claimant’s lawyer are not the same thing. And more fundamentally, there are questions being asked about the role of personal injury lawyers and when legal advice is most useful to a claimant, in an environment where the policy settings and legal framework strike the right balance, there are no disputes about liability and claimants understand their rights.”
Mr James Dalton is one of the representatives for the insurance industry at this weeks whiplash debate in the House of Commons. The debate is vitally important as its outcome is expected to be taken into consideration when Government make a decision whiplash reforms and whether to raise the small claims limit or not.
Of course it is hardly surprising that he is firing a broadside at the personal injury limit. There must be an element of pressure creeping in regarding the so called facts he and his fellow insurance industry representatives used to launch their case after they were revealed on Monday to be based on completely irrelevant reports, leading to a 200-300% miscalculation.
Regarding the inquiry Mr Dalton remained upbeat and claimed that whiplash claims was now the fraud of choice from within the UK and claimed that it was down to the compensation culture that this had become such a problem.
This claim is once again contestable by the fact that last year the amount of whiplash claims being made actually decreased on previous years although he fails to mention that in on the ABI website.
He rounded up by criticising the need to claim for thousands of pounds for injuries. Mr Dalton said: “So it is time we had an open and honest public debate about whether a minor, low speed shunt in a supermarket car park resulting in a sore neck for a couple of days justifies thousands of pounds in compensation. But it does need to be a grown up debate: with analysis rather than anecdotes and evidence rather than emotion. Whatever the outcome, insurers will provide the level of compensation to claimants and build that into car insurance premiums.”
Well if the insurance industry wants analysis rather than anecdotes then maybe they would prefer to use accurate information, rather than data that is over a decade old to make their assertions. If they want ‘evidence over emotion’, then why not try looking at the facts which clearly state that over the last 12 months the amount of whiplash claims on UK roads has decreased on last years total.
As for the last comment in regards to insurance companies paying out the agreed level of compensation, well the recent investigation by BBC’s Watchdog, and the figures released by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) as part of his Annual Report would suggest that this is far from what the insurance industry are doing.
What the insurance industry needs to understand is that whiplash is a real condition. It is not an injury from a road traffic accident that results ‘in a sore neck for a couple of days’. It can often lead those genuine whiplash claimants who suffer from it, in pain for weeks or months and can force them to make short term changes to how they live their lives.
By introducing such a radical change, such as increasing the small claims limit to £5,000, you are blocking these genuine sufferers from their access to justice and could leave them struggling to meet rehabilitation costs, behind on their rent through loss of earnings and, as a knock on effect, losing their homes.
The real debate here is why the majority of claimants who are genuine sufferers of this condition should have to suffer because of the minority. As Mr Dalton said, for those who are making fraudulent claims it is the fraud of choice. Raising this limit will just move them on to the next fraud of choice, leaving behind the genuine claimant without the right to claim the compensation they need and deserve for their injuries.
1. Association of British Insurers; http://blog.abi.org.uk/2014/05/licence-to-claim-five-reflections-on-laspo-and-where-were-going-on-whiplash-reform/