Whiplash claims should be made within three days of the alleged accident and include evidence of physical injury if they are to succeed, insurance giant Axa said today.
The recommendations are part of a wishlist for the government to adopt on whiplash, copying models already in place in France and Sweden.
In its whiplash report published today at a roundtable co-hosted by former justice secretary Jack Straw, Axa said research suggests its reforms would significantly reduce the number of exaggerated or fraudulent claims.
The report recommends that whiplash injuries should not be recognised until doctors can see evidence of the injury, such as an MRI scan or x-ray. Axa says this system is already in place in France, where the average cost of an insurance premium is roughly two-thirds of that in the UK and whiplash injuries account for 3% of all bodily injury claims.
In Sweden, where Axa said insurance costs 46% less on average than in the UK, insurers generally reject cases where symptoms appear more than 72 hours after the accident.
A whiplash commission set up in 2002 created this rule of thumb to counteract the increasing number of claims and insurance costs came down as a result.
The Axa recommendations go further in asking for medical evidence than the Ministry of Justice has previously indicated. The government is expected to introduce a national accredited panel of experts to assess contested whiplash claims in the autumn.
Axa also calls on the government to extend the small-claims track limit to £10,000 – double the threshold currently proposed.
The insurer also wants existing reforms, particularly the ban on referral fees, to be more vigilantly policed, with further legislation if necessary. The report stated: ‘It seems clear that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) is being circumvented by those who are finding creative ways around the ban.’
Chris Voller (pictured), Axa claims director, said: ‘Certain measures adopted in France and Sweden in particular offer very valuable insight into what works in practice and demonstrate several elements which could be adopted by the UK and that we believe would make a significant difference to the cost of premiums.
‘We would urge the government to look at what has worked in France and Sweden – specifically in relation to the requirement for medical evidence and the implementation of a minimum time threshold – as it considers how best to manage whiplash claims moving forward.’