Government figures tell us
that whiplash claims have fallen over the last four years by more than a third
– that’s almost 200,000 claims. A Freedom of Information Act request made by
APIL shows that they have fallen by eight per cent in the past year alone.
So you could be forgiven for
wondering why insurers such as Aviva and the AA are warning that car insurance
premiums are set to increase this year due to the cost of ‘out of control’
In the past few years the
Government has made radical changes to the system, slashing to the bone claimant
solicitors’ fees and those of medical experts in whiplash claims. From next month a new system
is to be introduced to help eliminate fraud. And now we have cast-iron evidence
that whiplash claims are falling. The insurance industry promised the last
Government that it would pass on savings from law reform to its customers in
the form of lower insurance premiums. Yet now we are being warned that premiums
are set to rise again.
It appears that the insurers
want more. What they are repeatedly calling for is an increase in the small
claims court limit from £1,000 to £5,000 for personal injury cases. This would
mean that many more people with injuries caused by someone else – perhaps on
the roads, or at work – would be forced into a court where people represent
themselves, a court which is traditionally used for settling disputes about
faulty goods or services.
I saw that last week, the
Association of British Insurers (ABI) published its top ten priorities for the
next Parliament. And guess what? It includes increasing the small claims court
limit for personal injury claims, and fixing legal fees for industrial deafness
claims (which, by the way, have also fallen in the past year). We know from our
own research that 70 per cent of people would not want to pursue a claim for
whiplash (for example) without the help of a solicitor. No wonder the insurers
are so keen for the next Government to make this change.
In a recent magazine
article, the ABI’s director of general insurance policy is quoted as saying
that “increasing the small claims track limit is a potential quick win and
would reduce premiums.” How many more “wins” does the insurance industry need
before it finally makes good on its promises to reduce premiums?
The argument to raise the
small claims court limit has come before successive Governments several times
now and each time it has been rejected. For that, the injured people we serve
are grateful. In my year as president of APIL I will do everything in my power
to ensure the next Government listens to the evidence and is not hood-winked
by insurers’ empty promises.