Insurers, not lawyers, are the bad guys when it comes to whiplash

Consultations close tomorrow on reforms that will deny justice to thousands of innocent motorists caught up in accidents that are no fault of their own

Careful motorists will suffer through insurers pushing a whiplash crackdown
Careful motorists will suffer through insurers pushing a whiplash crackdown

Whiplash, eh. It’s all a big con, pushed by ambulance chasing lawyers at the expense of innocent motorists who pay higher insurance premiums as a result.

Well that’s at least what the insurance industry would have you believe. The reality, as I can testify having been a victim of road accidents, is rather different.

Accidents are hideous things. Whiplash hurts like hell. It can require physiotherapy to put right. It can sometimes require a lot more than that.

When it is caused by someone else, you should be compensated. It’s a simple matter of justice. But insurance companies aren’t too keen on justice. What’s justice when set against the interest of the shareholders and bonus driven executives?

The industry has pumped time, effort and money into a campaign, led by the Association of British Insurers, that has pushed for legal reforms that would deny compensation and legal advice to whiplash victims. It has put forward the dubious argument of an “epidemic” of false whiplash claims while slyly neglecting to mention that insurers could fight the dubious ones but often fail to do so. Far more preferable to get the Government to eliminate the problem for them.

To help garner support, the industry has claimed that a package of reforms that the Ministry of Justice has put on the table will save the average motorist £40 on premiums.

So here’s a question, if that looks good to you. Why is an industry not known for its altruism putting so much effort into supposedly saving its customers money?

Could it be that the reforms won’t so much save motorists money as they will fatten the industry’s profit margins? Could that possibly be a rather better explanation for the industry’s keen interest in shafting the genuine victims of road accidents in the process of dealing with an “epidemic” that there is little in the way of hard evidence for.

Government consultations close tomorrow on the reforms. They would see pay outs capped at £400. Under the proposals people who have been the victims of accidents that are no fault of their own will also face the added stress of going through the smalls claims court for any claim worth less than £5,000. Claims which won't just involve whiplash but a lot of other injuries besides.

There will be no lawyer available unless you pay for one, and (as I can again testify) a lawyer is your best friend in the event of an accident when even your own insurer might not prove to be terribly helpful. As for the significant number of victims who develop serious problems through “low value” accidents? Tough.

Far from helping the ordinary motorist what these reforms serve to do is to kick the careful driver at the expense of both the bad ones and their greedy insurers.

By the way, there are no plans for any independent oversight of the industry’s promise to pass on that alleged £40 saving.

Premiums have actually been rising since the last lot of industry favourable reforms three years ago.

The industry’s own figures show that some £5.8bn was paid out in motor claims in 2015 against £8.3bn in 2010, a fall of 30 per cent. Yet the cost of motor insurance premiums started to rise at the end of 2013.

The MoJ’s reforms won’t save you money. They will save the industry money. Ambulance chasing lawyers? Perhaps we ought to rephrase that to “ambulance chasing insurers”. It isn’t the lawyers that are the bad guys here.

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