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Let’s stop car insurance blame game
Friday 01 June 2012 by John Hyde
Once you’ve finished this article I urge you to buy the Highway Code. Then spend every waking hour reading it, just to avoid ever getting behind the wheel again.
For if you do get in the drivers’ seat and cause a collision with another vehicle, you’re being taken straight to the cleaners. Cancel the kids’ college funds, put those holiday plans on hold and find your local Lidl. Times are about to get tight. We already know there’s a decent chance the party opposite will make a claim for whiplash. The Association of British Insurers is vocal about Britain’s ‘pain in the neck culture’, which sees nearly 1,200 whiplash claims made every day.
There is undoubtedly an issue with accident victims being encouraged by claims management companies (and by implication lawyers) to make claims that don’t have merit, although it’s worth remembering the government that highlights this as a problem is also responsible for regulating those same companies.
But before insurers get too accusatory, consider the findings of the Office of Fair Trading, which yesterday produced a damning assessment of the rising cost of motor insurance.
The headline of the report is that insurance companies are to be sent for further investigation to the Competition Commission.
But what the detail reveals is nothing short of extortion. The OFT is explicit: insurers deliberately choose car hire companies that charge higher daily rates, in exchange for a referral fee of between £250 and £400. Not-at-fault drivers receive replacement vehicles for longer than necessary, further adding to the bill for the person responsible for the accident. There is nothing the at-fault driver can do except watch the claim mount up.
By the end of the process, these practices have added an average £560 to every occasion a replacement vehicle is needed after an accident. Whilst the government remains keen to reduce personal injury claims, rises in car insurance premiums are ‘likely to persist’ whilst insurers continue this racket.
The spin coming from the ABI was mesmerising. Director of general insurance Nick Starling welcomed the report, claiming that ‘for too long insurers have faced inflated rates for credit hire cars and excessive hire periods’. With respect, this is claptrap. Just as with blaming lawyers for paying referral fees, in credit hire it takes two to tango. Insurance companies are as culpable for accepting the referral fees as the hire companies are for paying them.
What’s needed now is a moratorium on blame. Everyone involved in the process, to a lesser or greater extent, is responsible for car insurance hikes. It was refreshing to hear the response of the Motor Accident Solicitors’ Society, which called on ‘insurers, solicitors, government and regulators to stop blaming one another’.
Industries must take their fingers out their ears and admit their role. Denials will only polarise the debate and expose people to ridicule.
Let each group sit together and discuss how to clean up this industry. Only then might it be safe to get behind the wheel again.
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