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We all know them, and they are usually easy to identify: annoying individuals who are a pain in the neck (many politicians and celebrities currently come to mind).

By contrast, it is much harder to identify someone that actually has a pain in their neck, hence one of the biggest conundrums faced by insurers over recent years, whiplash claims.

Fortunately, I was in a Volvo the only time I have been hit in the rear. The front of the car that hit me was completely stoved in, but the Volvo was barely scratched and consequently I only felt a slight bump. I was unscathed, although appreciate that others will not always be so fortunate and can suffer serious neck pain after a rear end shunt.

Genuine victims should obviously be compensated, however the no win no fee compensation culture has led to an abuse of the claims system with whiplash claims increasing despite a fall in the number of road accidents. An improvement in the last few years is no doubt partly because of fewer cars on the road during the pandemic but possibly previous Government initiatives to reduce the problem. However, whiplash claims in the UK are still twice the average than most of our European neighbours.

I have seen countless ‘dodgy’ whiplash claims over the years at Nsure when our client’s drivers have hardly touched the vehicle in front or additional ‘injured’ passengers seem to come from nowhere! At one level, it seems many people take the opportunity to exaggerate a minor injury to maximise compensation but at the other extreme, there are criminal gangs who stage ‘crash for cash’ accidents, inducing motorists to crash into them and make exaggerated or fraudulent injury claims, occasionally with corrupt doctors, claims management companies and solicitors as part of the scam.

The latest attempt to solve the problem came into force in England and Wales on May 31 as part of the Civil Liability Act 2018 and applies to personal injury claims up to £5000. ‘Whiplash’ will now be defined as a specific injury, with a tariff of fixed compensation from £240 to £4,345 dependent on the duration of physical/psychological injury and should be considerably lower than previously although can be increased in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Another important change is that Claimants will be encouraged to process their own claims via a ‘portal’ rather than involving claims management companies.  Claims will no longer be paid without medical evidence and for most whiplash claims legal costs will not be recoverable.

Insurers now have 30 working days to provide evidence if liability is disputed, so will be asking their policyholders to provide any relevant evidence such as dashcam footage and witness statements as soon as possible. They have welcomed the reforms which will potentially save over £1 billion a year and have committed to pass any savings back to motorists (but watch this space)!

However, some insurers have already seen claim management companies trying to find loopholes and ways around the new reforms including attempts to push claims over the £5000 limit or also pursue non-injury compensation such as credit hire.  An alternative to whiplash is also emerging, tinnitus claims. Car crashes can obviously be very noisy!

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