Government targets fake whiplash compensation claims

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke this week resumed his crusade against “the compensation culture”, laying into personal injury solicitors yet again. Is it my imagination or whenever governments are doing badly, do they seem to look desperately around for easy targets to attack in order distract the public from the governments own failings. So-called ”fat cat” lawyers are often first in the firing line.

According to the government, the number of whiplash injury claims has risen by 70% in just six years and around £2 billion every year is paid out in accident compensation – with GPs apparently claiming that around 25% of the 600,000 compensation claims made every year are either “fake or overdiagnosed”. This is apparently the fault of no-win no fee lawyers. Firstly, if these cases are overdiagnosed, why is it the lawyers fault – they’re not performing the diagnosis – that’s down to GPs and it is the medical profession alone, which is surely responsible for proper diagnosis. But unfortunately attacking doctors is never politically popular – whereas the lawyer, and the accident claim lawyer in particular, is always a popular whipping boy.

The latest news followed earlier claims by the House of Commons Transport Committee, that the insurance industry or did that they’d felt forced to add around £90 to the price of every insurance policy to pay for these fake claims.

Our view? The government is to be applauded if it does in fact successfully set up an independent panel of medical experts to investigate dubious injury claims. But how about making sure that GPs are properly trained and do properly challenge anyone who they suspect of making a false claim. Without medical evidence no sane personal injury solicitor is ever going to run a case – no win no fee or not.

And finally, if the number of whiplash claims is indeed slashed, are we all really confident that the highly profitable insurance industry is going to generously cut down all our premiums ? Apparently the average premium has doubled since 2008 – that can’t just be down to whiplash claims. Will properly diagnosing fake whiplash claims result in a drop of the insurance premiums we all pay, or will any saving somehow be swallowed up in a rise in insurance industry profits. Only time will tell.