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Requiring accredited medical experts to examine whiplash claims part of U.K. insurers’ proposals


March 13, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter


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The Association of British Insurers (ABI) today released proposals to foster what it characterizes as a fair, independent and objective approach to help the United Kingdom shake its title as whiplash capital of Europe.

Medical

“Our proposals will ensure better medical assessment of whiplash claims; offer a quick, simple way of paying genuine claims; provide certainty for claimants and compensators; and deter fraud that ends up being paid for through higher motor insurance premiums,” James Dalton, ABI’s assistant director of motor and liability, notes in a statement from the association, which represents the British insurance, investment and long-term savings industry.

Citing figures from the Ministry of Justice’s Consultation, Reducing the Number and Cost of Whiplash Claims, published last December, ABI reports it is estimated 70% of road accident personal injury claims are for whiplash in the U.K. compared to 47% in Germany, 32% in Spain and only 3% in France.

The ABI notes 1,500 people claim whiplash injury every day in the U.K., and reported whiplash has increased by almost a quarter in the last four years, despite a decrease in the number of road accidents. “Whiplash claims cost £2 billion a year, adding an extra £90 a year to the average motor insurance premium,” the statement notes.

Last week, ABI reported that personal injury claim costs now make up the largest proportion of motor insurance claim costs, with whiplash claims alone accounting for 20% of premium income.

At the heart of ABI’s latest recommendations is the requirement for an accredited medical expert to examine anyone claiming whiplash injury. These experts would need to demonstrate their financial independence from claimant solicitors, take into account the circumstances of the collision rather than the claimant’s reported symptoms, and undergo training in latest diagnosis techniques.

Accreditation would be carried out by a board – consisting of government, judiciary, claimant interest groups, compensators and medical experts – which would develop both the accreditation process and standardized whiplash medical reports, as well as arrange for the claimant to be examined.

Other ABI recommendations include the following:

  • the Small Claims Track Threshold would rise from £1,000 to £5,000 for all road traffic personal injury claims (meant as a simple way to settle smaller claims);
  • there would be a laid down prescribed level of damage awards for whiplash, at a level set independently; and
  • an entire whiplash claim should be automatically dismissed for any claimant whose claim is in part exaggerated or made up.

“Insurers want to make it simpler and quicker for genuine whiplash claimants to get fair compensation. But whiplash is notoriously difficult to diagnose, which means that for too many people, it has become the fraud of choice,” Dalton adds.

ABI’s report released last week – Lifting the bonnet on car insurance – what are the real costs? – breaks down what motor insurance premiums pay for: 29% is on repair costs and replacement vehicles; 20% on whiplash claims; 15% on personal injury claims of less than £500,000; 9% on personal injury claims of more than £500,000; 3% on uninsured drivers; 2% on theft; and 26% on staff and overheads.