The constantly increasing number of personal injury claims is always a point of contention in the minds of the public, with some believing that Britain now has a compensation culture and others that it is simply a matter of more people now being aware of their rights.
Attempts at Controlling Claims
One area which has been recently highlighted for this is that of motor accidents and the ensuing whiplash compensation claims which, according to the Department of Work and Pensions’ compensation recovery unit, has risen by 52% in the last five years. This problem was discussed at length in a summit called by David Cameron recently, in which he challenged car-insurance companies about why families were being forced into paying higher premiums. The simple answer given was that premiums are rising in order to cover the high number of injury claims that they are increasingly being flooded with.
The summit did, however, force insurance companies into making a commitment to lower these premium costs should the government plans to deter claims prove successful. Plans include imposing a maximum limit of legal fees for such small personal injury claims to £1200 and also enforcing a minimum-speed limitation on how fast claimant drivers must have been travelling before claims for whiplash can be made. These will lower insurance costs by up to £90 per person according to figures from the Association of British Insurers.
Is It Really That Easy?
Although this may sound promising, there are obvious complications that have made some very sceptical. One obvious flaw in the minimum-speed limit is that it won’t cover situations where a large vehicle such as a lorry has smashed into a small car while travelling very slowly. This will clearly still result in some injury to anyone within the car. Secondly, there is the issue of who will police this new system and ensure that the insurance companies stick to their new promises of passing on their savings to the consumer. Over the past few years, there have been increasing problems in the insurance industry, whether it is doctors diagnosing whiplash too easily, or solicitors taking on weak claims in the hope of an early settlement. The system is riddled with problems that encourage bogus claims that the insurance companies do not then challenge in the courts. In an attempt to keep costs down, they simply settle as quickly as possible. But since the summit, they have now made a commitment to change this policy.
The Underlying Issues
Despite concerns that these measures may not be the most efficient means of dealing with the situation, it is still clear that something must be done. Of course, this will never be easy in a society which is increasingly succumbing to the ‘where there’s blame there’s a claim’ mentality. Television commercials are rife with personal injury adverts telling their audiences how easy it is to claim compensation and encouraging them to try. More and more, it seems that compensation is seen as ‘free money’ rather than as a financial means of helping someone who has been injured to be put back in the position they had been before that accident. Until we as a society correct that attitude, we will continue to be the whiplash capital of Europe. The real risk, of course, is that in fear of allowing bogus claims, we respond so heavily as to bar rightful claimants who are then denied justice. These are the issues that the government must consider in the hope of finding a middle ground.
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