The cost of whiplash

Whiplash - a man holding his neck

Find out what the rise in whiplash claims means for your pocket, and how you can counter the expense on your car insurance.

July 2014 Transport Select Committee report

  • Whiplash claims cost the industry over £2bn a year and add £90 to an average premium
  • Insurers should be banned from settling any whiplash injury damages claim without commissioning a proper medical examination
  • Personal injury lawyers should be stopped from offering inducements to motorists to make a claim

If you've ever suffered from whiplash, you'll know the misery it brings, both physically and financially should it come to physiotherapy and taking unpaid time off work.

Even if you haven't been affected by whiplash yourself, there's a good chance you know someone who has suffered from it following a road traffic accident.

Unfortunately, it's equally likely you know someone who has been involved in a minor car accident and has walked away with a nice lump sum of compensation, despite not really being injured at all.

Easy to fake and tough to diagnose, whiplash is a favourite amongst motorists looking to make a quick buck from car insurance firms.

In July 2014 the Commons Transport Select Committee reported that whiplash claims cost car insurance firms more than £2bn a year, meaning that an average of more than £90 was added on to individual drivers' premiums.Car

To counter this, the committee recommended that insurers should be banned from settling any whiplash injury damages claim without commissioning a proper medical examination.

What's more, since October 2014 the fees charged for an initial whiplash medical report have been capped at £180 - previously prices could have been up to £700.

The government was also advised to stop personal injury lawyers from offering inducements such as electronic gadgets or cash to 'injured' drivers in order to encourage them to make a claim.

"Further action is still required to tackle fraud whilst protecting genuine claimants," said committee chairman Louise Ellman MP.

"Solicitors must be banned from generating more work by offering inducements, such as cash or tablet computers, to encourage people to make a claim."

There need to be much tougher rules in place to prevent professionals from turning minor accidents into major personal injury claims
Lee Griffin, Gocompare.com

Crash for cash

Some disreputable motorists go even further than claiming for whiplash, and the insurance industry has highlighted a rise in crash-for-cash scams.

This involves a motorist, or motorists, deliberately staging a road accident, employing a number of methods to set it up.

They then claim off the insurance policy of the driver unwittingly involved in their scam.

The potentially lethal consequences were illustrated in February 2013, when three men were jailed at Reading Crown Court following the first recorded death of an innocent motorist, Baljinder Gill, who was caught up in their £20,000 insurance scam.

UK motorists attitude to personal injury claims

February 2013 research commissioned by Gocompare.com and carried out among 2,000 UK drivers revealed the following:Van insurance

  • 67% of UK motorists believed that personal injury lawyers should not be allowed to cold call or text people
  • 65% felt that people making claims for minor injuries are pushing up the costs of insurance for everyone
  • 61% of motorists said that people should only claim for an injury if it caused them to miss work or directly affected their life
  • 6% of motorists would consider making a personal injury claim even if they knew they weren't badly hurt
  • 3% of motorists said that people should do whatever they can to get money out of insurers

Whiplash analysis

"Fraudulent and exaggerated claims add to the cost of car insurance for all drivers and we welcome the Transport Committee's recommendations which seek to curb the spiralling costs associated with such claims," said Gocompare.com's Lee Griffin.

"Insurers, claims management companies and personal injury lawyers need to work together to ensure that drivers with honest claims are treated fairly whilst rooting out the fraudsters and those wishing to play the system.

"According to our own research, up to 1.7 million UK drivers [6% of our survey] would consider making a claim for a personal injury after a road accident, even if they knew they weren't badly hurt.

"Unfortunately, with some personal injury lawyers offering attractive inducements there's no surprise that some drivers are persuaded to make costly claims despite being relatively unharmed by their accident.Car

"There need to be much tougher rules in place to prevent professionals from turning minor accidents into major personal injury claims in the pursuit of higher profits."

The number of whiplash claims is one of the factors keeping car insurance expensive, but there are still plenty of ways to keep your premiums as low as possible - read our tips for cheaper car insurance to find out more.

By Sean Davies