Ministerial statement – tackling unjustified personal injury claims
Response from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)
There is much in the Government’s proposals which we welcome – we have, for example, been involved for some time in meetings with the Ministry of Justice and other stakeholders to improve standards of medical reporting in whiplash claims.
APIL has also been calling for years for a universal ban on cash and other inducements, so we welcome this approach. It’s important, though, that the same standards are applied to insurers, so that vulnerable people are protected.
We absolutely do not condone fraud or exaggeration, but it’s important to be clear about what is meant by these terms. At the moment, the situation is anything but clear.
If it can be proved to a criminal standard that an entire claim is fraudulent, there is no doubt that it should be thrown out. But what is considered exaggeration by an insurer can, to a claimant, be a very valid argument which the claimant has simply been unable to prove at a particular stage of the case. The law is rarely black and white, which is why the courts already have the power to use discretion to deal with alleged exaggeration. To introduce the power for blanket dismissal in this way will lead to three things: an increase in spurious allegations of fraud and exaggeration by insurers; an increase in satellite litigation, and an increase in the number of genuine claimants who either underplay their symptoms or who fail to bring valid cases at all, for fear of being falsely accused.
And the Government does not go far enough in its proposal to restrict the practice of settling whiplash claims without confirmation of injury. This practice plays a significant part in encouraging fraud, which is why APIL has called for an outright ban on pre-medical offers.