MPs will answer whether the government is right to describe the UK as the ‘whiplash capital of the world’ in a definitive report on motor claims.
The Commons Transport Select Committee today outlined the terms of reference for its inquiry into whiplash and called for evidence to find how best to deal with it.
Committee chair Louise Ellman was keen to stress there are no preconceived ideas and her group would listen to all sides of the debate.
She said: ‘It is vitally important for policymakers to understand the reasons for the very high cost of motor insurance, especially for young drivers, and to take steps to bring that cost down. Whiplash claims undoubtedly play a part in driving up the cost of motor insurance, but access to justice for injured people must be preserved.
‘We want to hear the arguments on these points and will publish a report in the summer about the best way forward on this difficult issue.’
The timing of the report will be crucial, with the government set to reveal the results of its consultation into raising the small-claims limit, which closed last Friday, in the summer.
The select committee will scrutinise the terms of that consultation and focus on these key questions:
- Whether the government is correct in describing the UK as the ‘whiplash capital of the world’.
- Whether it is correct to say that the costs of whiplash claims add £90 to the average premium and, if so, what proportion of this additional cost is due to ‘exaggerated, misrepresented or fabricated’ claims.
- Whether the proposals put forward by the government, in relation to medical evidence of whiplash and incentives to challenge fraudulent or exaggerated claims, are likely to reduce motor insurance premiums and, if so, to what extent.
- The likely impact of the proposals on access to justice for claimants who are genuinely injured.
- Whether there are other steps which the government should be taking to reduce the cost of motor insurance.
A spokesman for the Motor Accident Solicitors Society said the group ‘warmly welcomed’ the announcement of the inquiry.
‘For too long now it has been characterised as a simple question of the so-called compensation culture. The fact is that it is a complex issue with many characteristics contributing to the undoubted problem of fraudulent whiplash claims.
‘But it requires some sophisticated and holistic solutions rather than simple headlines.’
The Association of British Insurers this week called for anyone making a claim following a whiplash injury to be required to undergo examination by an accredited medical expert.
The organisation claimed that 70% of road accident personal injury claims are for whiplash in the UK, compared with 47% in Germany, 32% in Spain and only 3% in France, earning the UK what it called the ‘unwanted reputation as whiplash capital of Europe’.
The transport committee will accept written submissions to its inquiry by 15 April and will hear from witnesses in the following weeks.