Minor prange lands driver with £7,000 whiplash court claim

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For sheer motoring hassle, nothing quite beats the morning rush hour out of Gosport to get to work.

But for Liam Butler a minor low-speed shunt morphed into a protracted reverse ‘cash-for-crash’ claim which came back to haunt him 17 months after the original Fareham road incident had long been forgotten.

Back in May 2013 the 24-year-old tiler set off as he’d done countless times before, only to find that when he was approaching a red traffic light his foot momentarily slipped from the brake pedal.

By the time he reacted to the situation he was just unable to avoid a rear-end glancing blow with a stationary car waiting at the lights in front of him.

Fortunately the inevitable minor collision only resulted in superficial damage, and the apparently uninjured driver quickly stepped out to examine it and exchange insurance details.

Liam promptly told his insurers Elephant Van, part of the Admiral group of insurance companies. It confirmed they were dealing with the other driver’s claim and as the damage was only negligible he thought no more about it.

In the meantime he changed his van for a car, and switched insurers to get a better deal. But nothing was to prepare him for what happened next.

Out of the blue, more than a year and a half later, a bulky package of papers from Northampton County Court dropped through his letterbox. To his astonishment the other driver’s solicitor had slapped him with a £7,000 whiplash personal injury claim, as well as the cost of the minor repairs to the car.

Liam said: ‘I thought it had all been settled. To be honest I was shocked, surprised, and quite worried, so I talked it over with my parents and they suggested I should contact Streetwise for help and advice.’

After looking through the particulars of claim we advised him that the other driver could not make a duplicate claim on the same particulars and put his mind to rest. It was all down to the insurance company and to contact them promptly for instructions.

Days later, with the clock ticking down to submit a defence to the court, Liam told us he’d run into another snag. The insurer couldn’t find details of the policy because when he’d switched insurers he’d dumped all the paperwork.

We contacted the Admiral group who soon untangled the crossed wires. Within 24 hours they’d traced Liam’s original insurance claim. To his surprise it had not been closed and was still with their underwriter’s solicitors awaiting a response to a settlement offer.

Admiral spokesperson Justin Beddows told Streetwise: ‘Mr Butler’s insurers received a communication from the third party solicitors saying they were going to issue legal proceedings direct to Mr Butler. They should not have done this in the light of the offer made to settle the claim four days earlier.’

Liam was grateful that we had been able to help him sort out what had been a worrying experience.

Solicitors for the insurance company were now in the process of preparing a defence to the third-party claim which appeared to be long on assertion but short on substantive medical evidence.

While there is no suggestion that the accident claim was fraudulent, Streetwise remains critical of the process that led to Liam being directly involved in a stressful legal action he was in no position to defend while an outstanding insurance settlement offer was already on the table.

Whiplash compensation has become big business – part of the compensation culture. Claims for whiplash have now reached epidemic proportions. The Association of British Insurers says half a million claims are made every year.

Streetwise is happy to warn readers that every vehicle accident, however minor, can easily end up with motorists facing a personal injury whiplash claim running into thousands of pounds and sky-high insurance premiums. If Liam’s experience is anything to go by, the daily commute to and from work may end up far more hazardous and frustrating than you think.