Insurer backs plans to stop fraudulent whiplash claimants

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GLOBAL insurance group Zurich is backing government plans to clamp down on people who fraudulently claim whiplash injuries after being involved in accidents.

The insurer, which has its UK head office in Whiteley, said it supported Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who announced plans to set up a medical panel specifically to improve diagnosis of whiplash, and to allow claims to be challenged in the small claims court.

Jon Cawley, Zurich’s motor claims director, said: ‘We welcome Ministry of Justice proposals to introduce an independent expert medical panel to assess whiplash claims, rather than assessments being made by GPs.

‘This will ensure a more robust process in the courts – in these cases there is often little or no credible medical and biomechanical evidence, and as a result they are often subject to fraud.

‘We must move away from the now widely accepted consumer thinking that a minor car shunt equates to thousands of pounds in compensation, as this ultimately adds to the car insurance premiums of all consumers in the long term.

‘We have been calling for government support and leadership in helping insurers reduce the terrible burden associated with spurious whiplash claims.

‘However, there needs to be a more advanced way of diagnosing and proving whiplash injuries, as well as enhanced working with the legal and medical professions to shift behaviour towards coping rather than claiming for minor injuries.

‘People who are injured in car accidents deserve help and support in getting back to full health, but for too long the system has allowed less scrupulous individuals and claims management firms to seek compensation at the expense of honest customers.’

Figures show there has been a 60 per cent rise in personal injury claims related to road accidents since 2006.

There has also been a 20 per cent reduction in the number of reported accidents over the same period.

Mr Grayling said: ‘For too long honest drivers have been bearing the price of a system that has been open to abuse and it is time for that to change.

‘We are proposing action to support effective whiplash diagnosis by medical experts and to simplify procedures which will help bring speculative or fraudulent claims before a judge – so genuine claims can still be settled but fraudsters are left in no doubt there will be no more easy paydays.’