Lawyers have today welcomed a cross-party inquiry into whiplash claims, as news emerged that whiplash claims have fallen again in the last year.
“The Transport Committee inquiry finally presents a real chance to challenge hackneyed and groundless propaganda about whiplash-related injuries which has been promulgated by the insurance industry for far too long,” said Matthew Stockwell, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
“And it comes as a Freedom of Information request shows that whiplash claims in Britain fell again last year by nearly 60,000, bringing them to around the same level as in 2008/2009,” he added.
“Considering the congested state of the UK's roads, the impact of improvements in car design and the compulsory use of seatbelts, it is no great mystery that there are significantly more whiplash injuries than catastrophic injuries and deaths from car accidents, and this is surely something we should welcome,” said Mr Stockwell.
Evidence submitted by APIL to the Transport Committee inquiry points out that a report from the World Bank shows that the UK has 79 per cent more vehicles per kilometre of road compared with the European average. This is higher than Germany, the Netherlands, and almost twice the number than in France.
“One of the key purposes of car insurance premiums is precisely to ensure proper cover for such injuries,” said Mr Stockwell. “What is more ominous is that a report published only last month shows that 29 per cent of our premiums is used to pay for repair costs and replacement vehicles, which is an aspect of claims which the Office of Fair Trading has already branded 'dysfunctional'.”
APIL's evidence refers to a finding by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that insurers' approach to car repair and replacement “may push up premiums for drivers by £225 million a year”. The OFT has now referred the UK private motor insurance market to the Competition Commission for investigation.
“This, combined with insurers' staffing and overhead costs, accounts for more than half of the average premium, and this is where the real mischief lies,” said Mr Stockwell.
“This debate has been mired in myth and hyperbole for far too long,” he went on. “Whiplash injuries are real, they are painful, and independent research has found that around one in five sufferers have symptoms lasting more than a year. That's the reality. The fact that the Transport Committee is now taking a hard look at some of the myths is extremely welcome.”