Jack Straw takes aim at personal injury 'racket'
Former justice secretary Jack Straw has slammed the practice of insurance companies selling details of accidents on to ‘ambulance-chasing’ personal injury lawyers, calling for major reforms to the way the industry is run. Speaking in The Times, the Labour MP for Blackburn claims that high-ranking officials from two of Britain’s biggest insurance companies referred to the practice of selling on information as the industry’s “dirty little secret” to him. He has also said that other organisations, including the police, garages and recovery centres, were also getting in on the act. The high-pressure tactics of the personal injury firms have also been criticised by the MP. Straw also opened fire on the disproportionately high amount of whiplash injuries in Britain, which account for about 80 per cent of all claims. The costs of personal injury claims has doubled in ten years from £7bn to £14bn, despite the number of accidents involving personal injuries being down 31 per cent since the mid 1990s. The Association of British Insurers' Director General Insurance and Health, Nick Starling, said: "We are pleased that Jack Straw has joined our call for referral fees to be banned. It is not right that people take cash for tipping off lawyers about accidents which fuel personal injury claims, driving up costs for all motorists." However, he stopped short of criticising the industry outright "If insurers (sic) stopped taking this money, if it went out of their control, everyone else would be taking it - which is why they have to be banned outright,” he said. “You can't have one part of the system stopping it and everyone else carrying on. It wouldn't solve the problem."