AA BACKS CLAMPDOWN ON WHIPLASH CLAIMS
GOVERNMENT plans to consult on new measures to reduce fraudulent whiplash injury have been welcomed by the AA.
The broker, which tracks the quarterly movement of car insurance premiums through its British Insurance Premium Index, says the average cost of a comprehensive policy has doubled over four years.
Industry sources reckon around £90 is added to every driver's premium to fund the annual £2 billion bill for whiplash claims.
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says: "A significant factor in the premium increases has been a sharp rise in cost and value of injury claims at a time when the number of crashes on Britain's roads has fallen and car safety has improved.
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"You would think that British motorists must have weaker necks than any other European nation," he says. Whiplash injury is not a feature of injury claims outside Britain.
"While it is difficult to diagnose whiplash injury as it doesn't show up on X-rays or scans, this also makes it difficult and costly for defending insurance companies to disprove such claims and counter suspected fraud.
"As a result, it has become increasingly okay to claim £2,000 or £3,000 for an injury even if there is none, or where a couple of painkillers would do the trick," he says.
"Because the chances of making a successful claim are high, there has also been an explosion in organised 'cash for crash' gangs creaming millions of pounds off insurers for fraudulent or non-existent injuries."
Mr Douglas says any proposed independent screening of whiplash injury claimants must ensure that those who are genuinely injured will still get any compensation they deserve, while blocking claims from "chancers and fraudsters".
He also welcomes the re-balancing of no-win, no-fee deals so losing defendants no longer bear the brunt of costs, bringing the rest of the UK broadly in line with the Scottish system.
"Car insurance premiums are significantly lower in Scotland than the rest of the UK, partly because there are considerably fewer successful whiplash injury claims north of the border."
According to the AA British Insurance Premium Index, the cost of comprehensive car insurance has risen from £437.09 in October 2008 to £844.46 in October 2012.
In Scotland the average is £639.57.
Each day brings 1,500 whiplash injury claims.