Claims culture?

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The figures simply don’t support ‘claims culture’ idea that British society is blighted by ‘epidemic levels’ of whiplash claims, writes Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers

Much of the government’s rhetoric over many years has focused on reform to address an explosion of claims, that we live in a ‘claims culture’ and that the ‘where there’s blame there’s a claim’ system needs to be curbed.

This is an attitude that has also garnered much media support with whiplash scams, and no-win no-fee lawyers being demonised. Consequently, the average taxpayer wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that they were helping to fund a system that supported a ‘cash for crash’ culture.

However, if you move past the popular rhetoric and start to look at the figures, much of this starts to unravel.

Last week, the government published the latest Compensation Recovery Unit figures. The data published goes to the end of March 2020, so doesn’t really take into account the impact of Covid-19, with the dramatic drop in vehicle usage sure to carry over into claims. What it does do, however, is confirm what is now a long-term trend.

The figures highlight a steady decline in motor-related injury claims since 2011, when we saw a peak of 828,489, to March 2020 when 653,052 claims were recorded. The number has been around this level for three years now.

In fact, claims across all of the areas—clinical negligence, employer and public liability as well as motor—have all been on a downwards trend over the last decade.

The figures simply don’t support this idea that society is blighted by ‘epidemic levels’ of whiplash claims.

Let’s put them into context. There are 38 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain and government figures for 2018 say they drove 328 billion miles. Last year, there were 153,315 casualties of all severities—and they were only the accidents reported to the police. The government’s National Travel Survey, meanwhile, found that 49% of people who had a road injury accident reported a whiplash injury. So, 650,000 claims does not sound like an outrageous number at all. 

The insurance industry may not like it, but being in a car crash often causes at least a minor injury, and these ‘minor’ injuries can have a significant impact on the injured party with residual pain often disrupting both home and work life for a prolonged period—why should we be surprised by this?

With Covid-19 having contributed to yet further delays of the reforms implementation, I hope that both the government and the insurance industry find the time to take stock, examine these figures and ask themselves just who the reforms will be benefiting the most. 

Surely, after having been through so much so far this year as a country, we have learned at least one thing, and that is to take care of our most vulnerable. I hope that the government can see that it cannot, in all good faith, continue with plans that will leave injured people worse off and in many cases remove access to justice altogether.

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk