Jack Straw attacks injury claims 'racket'

Former justice secretary Jack Straw has launched a crusade against insurance companies which sell customers' details to no win, no fee claim firms.

The Labour MP for Blackburn said the cost of personal injury claims has doubled to £14 billion in 10 years.

But in 2009 the number of accidents in which someone was hurt was 31% lower than the average for 1994 to 1998.

Writing in The Times today, he said: "This is not a system, it's a racket. The quicker it's ended, the better it will be for the law-abiding motorist."

Mr Straw was alerted to the problem by constituent Phil Riley, who was "bombarded with texts and personal calls" following a minor "fender bender" in which he suffered no injury.

In a bid to discover how the claims companies had obtained Mr Riley's personal details including his mobile phone number, Mr Straw went to see two major insurers who admitted selling customers' details.

Even police forces have sold such information, with one unnamed force making £1.3 million in 2008-09.

The number of claims companies has doubled to 3,400 in two years, and Mr Straw wants them more closely regulated and their high pressure sales techniques curbed.

He called for referral fees, which can be up to £200 to £1,000 per case, to be banned.

Motorists who suffer whiplash in an accident should be required to provide proof of serious injury, he suggested.

The cost of treating whiplash to the NHS is £8 million, but the cost of related claims to the insurance industry is £2 billion, he said.

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