Goldsmith Williams supports personal injury industry clean up

Published: 02/02/2012

The personal injury industry is currently receiving a lot of air time, possibly the most it ever has. Many areas of the industry are coming under fire, most notably whiplash claims and their impact on the rising cost of motor insurance.

Between 2000 and 2005, there were on average 395,735 motor insurance injury claims notified to the Compensation Recovery Unit each year; in 2010 – 2011 there were 790,999. This is despite a 31 per cent decrease in the number of casualties between 2000 and 2010¹.

Whiplash accounts for around 70 per cent of all road traffic accident claims. Given the difficult nature in diagnosing this type of injury, it has become the easy target of blame with critics citing it as the main reason for the rise in premiums.

Jack Straw MP described whiplash as “not so much as injury, more a profitable invention of the human imagination – undiagnosable except by third-rate doctors in the pay of the claims management companies or personal injury lawyers”¹. Such opinions are strengthening calls for an industry shake up with Mr Straw proposing compensation for whiplash only be paid out when “clear objective evidence of real injury” is provided.

Whilst Goldsmith Williams is obviously firmly against any fraudulent claim, it is vital these reforms do not squash genuine claimants.

For many years, claimants of personal injury have been tarred with a particularly negative brush. While there is undeniably a select number of claimants who exploit the personal injury market, and who need to be brought to justice, there are an overwhelming majority of genuine claimants who too deserve access to justice, a viewpoint which is supported by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

Following the report by the House of Commons Transport Committee, APIL criticised any measures that could hinder genuinely injured people from making valid claims.

It is responsibility of all parties – from brokers to personal injury solicitors – to help clean up the industry whilst continuing to act in the customers best interests. However, there is only so much we can do from our side; the insurance industry also has a vital role to play in the current situation as Simon Cottrell, senior partner at Goldsmith Williams, points out:

“Clearly, there are problems within the industry and I welcome the fact the Government is looking into it, but the Transport Committee’s report raises a key question.

“There is a deafening silence as to how much the insurance industry would be prepared to reduce premiums by if the Government were to uphold some or all of the recommendations put forward.

“The sector is claiming that premiums have risen as a result of whiplash injuries and fraudulent claims, but the reality is that the cost of insurance has rocketed as a consequence of many factors. Premiums have increased due to the need for insurance companies to make profits in a depressed market.

“The industry is continuing to peddle the illusion that whiplash claims is the only root of spiralling premiums which is absurd. Whiplash injuries are soft tissue injury and there is no absolute way to diagnose the severity of it. It is offensive of Jack Straw to say that they are assessed by third rate doctors.”

¹House of Commons Transport Committee: Cost of motor insurance: follow up (Jan 2012)

Content correct at time of publication

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