Government and insurers clash over whiplash claims

Industry news roundup: week ended 28 July 2014:

The Government and car insurance companies are currently at odds over how to handle the rising tide of personal injury compensation from whiplash claims.

Whiplash claims have been a thorn in the side for insurers for what seems like forever. Over the past decade or so though things have gotten quite horrid, what with a massive influx of scammers and fraudsters trying to weasel every last penny they can out of insurance providers by bringing spurious car accident claims. Insurers that pay out on these claims run up massive operating costs because there’s little to no actual difficulties in bringing whiplash claims in terms of proving you’ve actually been injured. It’s incredibly hard to disprove a whiplash claim, so most claimants can succeed, walking off with personal injury compensation that they don’t deserve – and causing insurers  to raise their premiums to remain in business.

The Government has had enough of this, and a new report published by MPs says that a new plan is in the works to make it a requirement for anyone making a whiplash claim to have a medical examination if they want to gain access to any insurance settlements. The idea here is that making medical examinations mandatory will help reduce or even eliminate fraud.

Of course insurers think this doesn’t go nearly far enough, simply because, well they’re insurers and they don’t want to spend any money at all if possible. Aviva, the UK’s largest insurance provider, has countered with a proposal of its own: whiplash sufferers don’t get a single penny in cash for their accident claims. Instead they would be provided free rehabilitation instead. Aviva says this could cut the yearly whiplash fraud loss by nearly half – and of course reduce the amount of cash insurers have to shell out to claimants.

This is all well and good, but for what it’s worth this means that people who have legitimately suffered whiplash could essentially be left twisting in the wind. I don’t know if you’ve ever actually had whiplash but it hurts like a right bastard – you could be laid up for weeks at a time with excruciating pain. Who’s going to pay your bills during those weeks until the pain subsides enough for you to go back to work?  I understand insurers are a greedy lot, but come on now – show some compassion!

Injury claims: worth an arm and a leg or fall on deaf ears

Industry news roundup: week ended 21 July 2014:

The scope of personal injury claims in the UK is so large that while some people end up literally paying and arm and a leg. others injuries fall on deaf ears.

I’m not being facetious either when I say a personal injury compensation campaign can cost you an arm and a leg. I’m being literal – a German aircraft worker recently won around £600,00 (750,000 euro) in damages after he lost an arm and a leg in an accident at a British airport. It’s been four long years since this poor bloke has had to go without a compensation award, but now the wait is over – and he can finally rest assured that he has the cash he needs to help him manage with two lost limbs. I can only imagine how terrible a time the man’s had over the last four years, especially since his compensation award has been tied up for so long!

Meanwhile not all work accident claims are created equal. It turns out that a new research study released this week found that personal injury claims for industrial deafness have gone up to around 80,000 in 2013 – a jump of more than two thirds. Despite this huge increase – or maybe even because of it – insurers are flat-out refusing deafness claims in droves. In fact, major British insurer Aviva rejects more than 8 out of every 10 claims, claiming that the lion’s share are simply instances of fraud.

Deafness claims are actually rather lucrative from a compensation point of view, with industry analysts claiming that insurers could end up paying anywhere from £300 million to £500 million on an annual basis, and that’s if only 30 per cent of claims were actually permitted to be brought. That might be a drop in the bucket when compared to car accident claims, but it’s a serious chunk of change – and insurers if nothing else hate parting with money when they don’t have to. At the same time, anyone who has experienced hearing loss due to working in a loud environment where they were not provided proper ear protection deserves to be compensated. Do you have any idea how costly a pair of hearing aids can be? You can’t just pick one up at your local Tesco, you know!

Road traffic accidents and car crashes: nobody wins

Industry news roundup: week ended 14 July 2014:

You might think that people who make successful car accident claims come out on top, but the sad truth is everyone suffers when traffic accident figures are up.

Sure, you can get a big fat personal injury compensation award if you’re injured in a RTA, but you know that money has to come from somewhere, right? Well it’s not coming from the other driver directly – it comes from insurance companies, and their coffers don’t get filled without charging their customers for insurance cover. The more accident claims an insurer loses, the more money it spends – and the more it has to raise its rates on its customers to make up the shortfall.

Now that’s just the way things work – nobody really wins. However, everyone loses no matter what – and in times where traffic accidents – and traffic accident claims – increase, it’s pain for everyone. Sadly that’s what’s going on right now – in fact new research has said that the number of dangerous accidents occurring on 20mph roads in particular have gone up by 26 per cent over the past 12 months, if data from the Institute of Advanced Motorists can be trusted. The more accidents there are, the higher a chance for injuries to occur – and we’re all going to have to suffer. So for pity’s sake don’t drive like a pillock!

Of course, sometimes insurance companies are targeted directly by accidents – often in completely unexpected ways. In fact, this week saw an ambulance plowing through a pair of steel bollards and careering through a glazed shopfront before coming to rest in the office of an insurance company’s chief executive! Somehow everyone escaped harm, including the driver of the ambulance (who lost control in the wake of a collision) and every single insurance company employee that was there that day. Surely a stroke of dumb luck that there was no one hurt or killed. Still, I’m rather sure that the insurer’s costs to repair their shopfront are going to have a heavy impact on their bottom line – and that means their customers are going to feel the pain too. It’s a vicious cycle, and it drives me mad to think there’s no way out.

Seriously injured awarded compensation for car accidents

Industry news roundup: week ended 7 July 2014:

Road traffic accident claims can be some of the most expensive for insurers – as demonstrated by two massive compensation awards in the news this week.

When it comes to the types of injuries you can sustain in car accidents, it’s hard to find more serious and life-changing ones. In fact the only other place I can think that such massively debilitating injuries can occur would be in the construction or manufacturing industries, having seen some truly impressive work accident claims myself; not to denigrate or diminish the pain and suffering of someone caught in such an accident at work, but it does seem more tragic when it involves a moving vehicle for some reason. Perhaps because they’re much more high-profile, especially in cases where drivers or passengers are left wheelchair bound.

That’s exactly what happened to 21 year old Joe Heaton, who was the passenger in a vehicle when it smashed into a tree on the A30 near Bradford Abbas three years ago. The injured man, whose spine suffered enough damage to remove his ability to walk, was just rewarded what the courts are calling a ‘substantial’ personal injury compensation package. Part of the terms of the agreement mean the exact sum will not be publicised, but considering how he will be receiving index-linked payments for the rest of his life in addition to a weighty lump sum the total value is surely in the millions.

The poor man luckily suffered no cranial damage, meaning his ability to think and reason – as well as communicate effectively – is thankfully intact. However, other people injured in car wrecks are not so lucky; in fact, another man who was a passenger in a vehicle that flipped on its roof during a crash might be £2.3 million richer, but his cognitive ability is sadly lessened as a result of the injury. It’s tragic and unfair – even more so when the injuries occur to passengers and not drivers, as there’s no one to point the finger and say that they were partly responsible for the accident – and it’s even more telling when brain injury is involved. A sad day for these poor blokes; no amount of cash, however much, will restore their bodies and minds.