4th July 2014
The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) broadly welcomes the latest Transport Select Committee’s report, ‘Driving premiums down: fraud and the cost of motor insurance’ and we agree with most of the Committee’s considered recommendations that collectively form a sensible blueprint for tackling fraud.
MASS has long recognised that motor accident fraud is a serious issue for society and ultimately affects everyone who drives a motor vehicle. The issues involved can be complex and require carefully considered solutions, ensuring that fraudsters are prosecuted and potential fraudsters are dissuaded, but ensuring that the rights of genuine claimants are not undermined.
We are continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Justice, insurers and other representative bodies on the many complex issues around these issues, including the introduction of independent medical panels and the sharing of data to combat fraud. Progress continues to be made but these issues require careful and detailed consideration. We have been at the forefront of these developments and have long campaigned for a ‘no medical, no damages’ approach and proposed that data sharing should be compulsory. The accredited experts must be independent and we believe that this can be secured and verified by a robust accreditation process and ensuring that there are no external influences over the contents of their reports. We support the objective of ensuring, via a medical accreditation process, that psychological reports are obtained and treatment provided only where it is warranted by the claimant’s symptoms as confirmed by an appropriately qualified independent medical expert.
We broadly support the Government’s intention to ban inducements as a matter of principle, but are keen to work with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that its introduction is practical and does not impinge on other legitimate activity.
We fully agree with the Committee that advises “caution against hasty legislation” on exaggerated claims and ‘fundamental dishonesty’ in claims. Having been introduced to the Criminal Justice & Courts Bill as a late amendment without debate (now Clause 45), the proposed changes require careful and full consideration in the House of Lords. We have serious concerns that a catch-all definition of ‘fundamental dishonesty’ will lead to a wide range of unintended consequences and remove the existing discretion that judges have to clamp down on clear cases of fraud.
We do not, however, agree with the Committee on everything. MASS remains opposed to a rise in the small claims limit which would have a detrimental effect on access to justice, increase activity by Claims Management Companies and has the potential to fuel fraudulent or exaggerated claims. We do agree that these potential adverse consequences need to be fully investigated before any further decision is taken.
We also are against reducing the time limit for bringing forward claims. Some cases can be extremely complex when injuries occur and prolonged medical treatment is required. Reducing the period available to claim could have a serious detrimental impact on entirely legitimate claimants seeking recompense for injuries sustained in an accident through no fault of their own.
Craig Budsworth, Chair of MASS, said:
“The Committee has produced another thoughtful and valuable contribution to the debates around how to tackle the problems of fraudulent or exaggerated claims. Apart from some issues around potentially raising the small claims limit and the restricting the time limit on bringing forward a claim, we agree with the Committee’s recommendations. As we do, the Committee wants to see progress, but only after careful consideration of all the available data and understanding all the impacts that the reforms may have. We shall continue to work with the Committee, the Ministry of Justice and all other stakeholders to combat fraud at every level and to find workable solutions to these sometimes complex problems.”
For further information:
Craig Budsworth 07525377475
Tim Carr 07775 853789 firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
MASS is a non-profit making national association of solicitors who specialise in road traffic accidents, representing the accident victim. Formed in 1991, MASS promotes the highest standards of legal services through education and representation in the pursuit of justice for the victims of road traffic accidents. MASS comprises 150 solicitor firms that employ over 2,000 legal staff, throughout the UK. Collectively member firms conduct in excess of 600,000 road traffic accident personal injury claims each year.
The victim, and what is in their best interests, must remain at the centre of the debate. Our goal in this debate is to both protect the rights and interests of consumers who are victims of genuine road traffic accidents as our constitutional objective.