All the attention is on potential fraud caused by car drivers – where is the much-needed protection for those on two wheels?
The consultation for whiplash reforms closed earlier this month, and many firms like ourselves have been submitting responses to the Ministry of Justice.
A lot of questions have been raised about the implications of certain elements of the proposals, such as the stricter limitations on damages for minor soft tissue injuries and the requirement for all claims under £5,000 to go through the small claims court.
While I am sure we can all agree that there is no place for fraudulent claims in our industry, more clarity is needed to ensure the reforms are effective in their objectives.
At the moment, all sides (including the government and lawyers) seem to be focusing on how the proposals are going to affect car users, which is understandable as the majority of road traffic claims come from people involved in car-related accidents. However, in our view, not enough consideration is being given to the impact these reforms will have on other, more vulnerable road users.
This includes the 18,000-plus motorcyclists who make up 10% of all casualties on the UK’s roads each year, despite bikers only representing 1% of all road users.
Our biggest concern is the government’s ‘blanket approach’ is going to negatively impact on the rights of vulnerable road users who are rarely, if ever, involved in the type of fraudulent claims that are being blamed for the soaring cost of car insurance.
The ABI states that around 70,000 dishonest motor claims took place in 2015, but based on our own extensive data, less than 0.0002% of the motorcycle claims have any finding of dishonesty.
So, given these figures, it seems very unfair to place restrictions on a motorcyclist’s compensation and access to justice to try to solve a problem that, regardless of whether it exists or not more widely, certainly does not exist when it comes to motorcyclists.
People are not staging accidents on their motorcycle in order to make a bogus compensation claim. Motorcycle insurance is already very affordable at around a third of the cost of the average car premium. It is car insurance that takes the headlines in the government’s own consultation document.
Our biggest concern is the government’s blanket approach is going to negatively impact the rights of vulnerable road users
The proposals also fail to take into account the more complex nature of accidents involving vulnerable road users. Not only are injuries more complex because they do not have the added protection of a vehicle, the question of who is to blame is twice as likely to be disputed in motorcycle cases compared to the average motor claim.
Therefore it’s harder for such matters to be dealt with fairly through the small claims court because motorcyclists are more likely to require extensive legal advice surrounding the issue of both liability and quantum.
We believe the government needs to draw a clearer distinction between claims from different types of road users and make exceptions in any reforms, in order to defend the rights of bikers, plus cyclists and pedestrians, who are clearly not part of the perceived problem.
We hope that the government will consider our position, our unique data and our recommendations, and ensure that our road’s most vulnerable users continue to be protected by society.
Ed Fletcher is chief executive of north-west firm Fletchers Solicitors