Insurers ordered to clampdown on fraud claims
The insurance industry must stop encouraging fraud and exaggeration in accident claims, a committee of MPs has said.
In a report on the effect of whiplash claims on the cost of car insurance, the Transport Select Committee said motor insurers must "put their house in order".
The motor insurance trade body, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), refuted the allegation that its members encouraged fraud, but it did agree that the claims process should be tightened up.
A spokesman for the ABI said: "There has been a growth in recent years in claimant lawyers and claims management companies encouraging people to submit an increasing number of frivolous or exaggerated claims. Following recent reforms to the civil litigation system, insurers committed to pass on cost savings to motorists."
The Transport Select Committee added that the government must also be stricter on motor insurance claims to help bring premiums down.
It called on the government to reduce the limitation period for road accident claims, adding that whiplash claimants must provide more evidence to support their claims.
Committee chair Louise Ellman MP said: "To help bring insurance premiums down the government must tighten up the requirements for motor insurance claims and ensure that insurers honour their commitment to reduce premiums."
According to the ABI, whiplash claims cost UK motorists over £2 billion a year, adding £90 to the average premium.
Tom Jones, head of policy and public affairs at Thompsons Solicitors, called on insurers to set out a clear timetable for a reduction in motor insurance premiums. He said: "The car insurers have no excuse. They make hundreds of millions in profits and could easily pass some of this back to motorists. If they refuse to do so, there should be a windfall tax on their profits in the same way as the banks were penalised in the past."
The Transport Select Committee said the government had ignored its previous call for the links between insurers and other parties involved with claims to become more transparent. It added that it was surprised to hear that insurers will sometimes make an offer to personal injury claimants even before a medical report has been received.
But the committee also warned that claimants with genuine injuries should not be demonised. Ellman added: "Whiplash injuries can have debilitating consequences for those who suffer them. However, some of the increase in whiplash claims will have been due to fraud or exaggeration."
An unexpected one-off financial gain in cash or shares, generally when mutual building societies convert to stock market-quoted banks. Also windfall tax, a one-off tax imposed by government. The UK government applied such a measure in the Budget of July 1997 on the profits of privatised utilities companies.
Claims management companies
Regulated by the Claims Management Services Regulator since 2006, claims management companies offer advice and legal services in respect of claims for compensation, restitution, repayment for loss, damage or negligence. To many, the term is merely a polite euphemism for “no win, no fee” law companies. If you feel they offer services you need, approach with care.
Association of British Insurers
Established in 1985, the ABI is the trade body for UK insurance companies. It has more than 400 member companies that provide around 90% of domestic insurance services sold in the UK. The ABI speaks out on issues of common interest and acts as an advocate for high standards of customer service in the insurance industry. The ABI is funded by the subscriptions of member companies.