David Cameron’s message for Valentines day is that he is going to ‘cut’ the number of whiplash claims made… How is he going to do so? Ban driving? Pass legislation that requires all cars to be coated in 25ft thick layers of bubble wrap before they can go on the road? Once again, our elected leader makes a sound bite comment that has no substance when it’s looked in to further.
Today’s BBC News Online carried the story. Unfortunately, it seems that the insurance sector is again blaming their perpetual increase in our premiums on whiplash claimants. However, this doesn’t really hold true. Sure, individuals now know that if they are injured whilst in a car as a result of the negligent driving of a 3rd party, they can seek compensation for their pain and suffering. What’s wrong with that? Whiplash can blight lives and from personal experience (I was lucky to survive a serious Road Traffic Accident back in 1998 – not my fault I hasten to add) I know just how big a problem a permanent neck injury can cause.
So in his esteemed offices, Cameron is today hosting a meeting (probably at the behest of the huge insurance companies that dominate the one sided debate on these issues) about the whiplash claim market. At the heart of the Insurance sectors argument is that Insurers say whiplash claims cost their industry £2 billion a year and add £90 to the average annual bill. It is reported that the Insurers are seeking a minimum speed below which a whiplash claim can be rejected.
In essence, that could be a fair argument, but what will the Insurance industry state is the speed below which such claims can’t be made? Experts have already concluded that whiplash can be sustained at low speed and surely, each accident and each injured client has to be viewed on a case by case basis.
Mr Cameron is expected to say later that he is “determined to tackle this damaging compensation culture which has been pushing up premiums”. But is it really whiplash claims that are responsible for this? Is there no argument that the premiums rise way beyond reason because of the greed of the Insurance companies and the wish to maintain their amazingly large profit margins?
Personally, I had a vehicle stolen from outside my house last November. It was recovered by the Police within 45 minutes and collected by my insurers within 2 days. It is now mid February and I still don’t have the vehicle back. It’s been sat in a compound for almost 3 months with a daily storage rate of a considerable sum and this is not uncommon. Who is paying for this storage? You and me and all insurance holders… Who is making the money? Insurance companies and other parties who are on the bandwagon for getting involved in a claim. Is this the fault of an injured party? Nope! The cost for storage and recovery far outweighs the cost for paying an injured claimant for their injuries.
Unfortunately, the whiplash victim is an easy target for the Government and their paymasters – the likes of the Insurance sector. The ABI constantly attack the ‘claims culture’ and fail to address the right of an individual who, and let me make this blatantly clear, IS NOT AT FAULT FOR THEIR INJURIES, to pursue compensation for the pain, suffering and distress caused to them by the negligent actions of another.
To me (and many others) it seems that the Insurers what to have their cake and eat it. They want to take money from us in premiums and then make it harder and harder to claim anything back from them… Their job is to (fairly) assess a risk and charge a fair premium for insuring against it. It is not their job to reduce the right of individuals to seek a just and fair outcome when they have been the victim of a non-fault incident.