Cameron vows action on whiplash insurance claims


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Indy Politics

Action will be taken to reduce the £2 billion-a-year cost of insurance claims for whiplash to help deal with the UK's “compensation culture”, David Cameron will say today.

The Prime Minister is hosting a summit with insurance, consumer and business groups at Downing Street to discuss ways to bring down soaring premiums.

Britain has become “the whiplash capital of Europe”, Number 10 said, with 1,500 claims a day for even the most minor accidents adding £90 a year to the average bill.

Ministers are examining recent calls by the Commons Transport Committee for a higher threshold - using factors such as speed or more extensive medical evidence.

Other issues to be examined are the wider use of in-car monitoring of young drivers, reform of the “no win, no fee” system and reducing lawyer fees for small personal accident cases.

Concerns raised by businesses that they are being forced to go far beyond legal minimums in order to secure insurance cover will also be discussed.

Mr Cameron is expected to say: “I am determined to tackle this damaging compensation culture which has been pushing up premiums.

“I want to stop trivial claims, free up businesses from the stranglehold of health and safety red tape and look at ways we can bring costs down.

“The insurance industry plays such an important part in all our lives - it is there to help when we are at our most vulnerable and at greatest need. But I want to ensure that we all do what we can to help people through this difficult time.”

Shadow transport minister John Woodcock said: “The vast majority of motorists drive responsibly and yet continue to be hit by eye-watering increases in insurance costs, in part due to the sheer number of dodgy whiplash claims.

“Motorists are already feeling the squeeze from the VAT hike on fuel and want to see less talk and more action from this out-of-touch Government.

“Getting insurance costs under control requires the Government to bring forward concrete proposals and as a start support Labour's proposal to limit whiplash claims.”

Asked if motorists were lying about being injured, Transport Secretary Justine Greening told BBC Breakfast today: “I think too often they're encouraged to make a claim for compensation for some kind of health issue.

“I think there are many people who are probably watching this who had a minor, minor accident and might have nudged the person in front of them in a car and the next thing they know that person is somehow claiming for some sort of whiplash injury.”

She said work could be done to “tighten up” the system of doctors diagnosing whiplash.

“When you look at the statistics, you see that, over the last three years alone, the number of whiplash claims has gone up by 30%. Something is not right.”

She added that reform plans included banning passing on a motorist's details to personal injury lawyers.

Otto Thoresen, director-general of the Association of British Insurers, said: “This is a unique opportunity to highlight to the Prime Minister the unacceptable cost pressures that insurers are facing, and what needs to be done to ensure that the UK's honest motorists get a better deal.

“We welcome the personal interest of the Prime Minister in this and the Government's willingness to consider radical reforms which will be necessary to tackle the UK's compensation culture.”

He went on: “The cost of motor insurance reflects our society where it is all too easy to make spurious and exaggerated personal injury claims, where excessive legal costs can outstrip compensation awards and that tolerates the high levels of deaths and serious injuries involving young drivers and their passengers.

“Urgent action is needed to tackle the surge in whiplash claims which now cost insurers £2 billion a year and push up premiums for all motorists.

“Tackling these issues will bring down motor premiums. Insurers are committed to this, but we need help from the Government.

“Today's summit can provide the impetus to ensure motorists get the best possible insurance deal.”