This article first appeared in Modern Insurance Magazine Issue 30, May 2018
In many respects, the debate around the Government’s proposals on whiplash has moved on considerably since the plan to effectively outlaw whiplash as an injury was first revealed in November 2015. The original proposal to effectively ban the right to damages may have been dropped, but a combination of the proposed ridiculously low fixed tariffs and an unjustified 500% increase in the small claims limit, will severely limit the right to damages anyway.
Despite all the correspondence, conferences, roundtables and meetings, Ministers’ views remain stubbornly wedded to concepts that should by now have been consigned to the rubbish bin. They claim that “most” low value RTA are fraudulent, when just about everyone acknowledges that it’s probably less than 3%. They say that the number of reported serious accidents have declined so why haven’t the number of claims, studiously ignoring Department for Transport estimates that some 480,000 RTA casualties go unreported each year. The logic that accidents are more likely to be at a low impact and less serious because of slower traffic and improved car safety continues to elude them.
The significantly higher number of Claims Notification Forms submitted makes for a better headline number rather than using the more common sense number of claims that are actually settled at the end of the process. That this number has shown a significant decrease over recent years just doesn’t fit the Government’s narrative. And then, there is the fallacy that RTA claims are simple cases little different from making any other insurance claim – apart from fraud checks, liability assessment, assessment of damage, disputes over causation, evidence gathering and a host of other stages and legal concepts. Whilst RTA claims are clearly not amongst the most complex of legal cases, they will still appear bewildering and complex to LIPs no matter how user-friendly the new LIP Portal may eventually turn out to be.
The reality is that after more than two years, the evidence base is still disputed, unreliable and is, in some areas, entirely speculative. Regulation should be proportionate and based on clear and reliable evidence, rather than a reliance upon assumptions of the consequences and a “wait and see” approach. It’s still not too late to stop and think again.
Simon Stanfield, author of ‘It’s still not too late to stop and think again’ is Chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) and a Partner at Simpson Millar