Fitness tracker data to be used in personal injury claim?

Industry news roundup: week ended 24 Nov 2014:

Just when you thought you’ve heard it all: it turns out that data from one of those fitness trackers is going to play a central role in a personal injury claim.

Sure, it can be a chore when it comes to establishing whether or not someone’s actually injured. It’s especially problematic in cases revolving around whiplash claims, as there’s little in the way of observable medical evidence to provide a case either for or against a claim of that nature.

However, what if there was a better way? Imagine if you could look back in time and peer into the body of a claimant at the time of injury – wouldn’t that be a brilliant way to see if their body actually did undergo trauma like it says in their lawsuit?

Well guess what – it’s happening. Or it will happen soon. At least it will in Alberta, Canada, where one company plans on using data from a Fitbit fitness tracker to delve into the issue.

Vivametrica, an analytics firm, just launched a new service that offers a way to use a Fitbit or another similar wearable fitness tracker in personal injury cases. So how does it work? Well a claimant slips the fitness tracker on and wears it for several weeks as the little device does its thing, gathering up data on the claimant’s sleep patterns, daily activity levels, and things of that nature – then Vivametrica takes the information and compares it to its database of other Fitbit users in the claimant’s age, height and weight class. If it turns out that the claimant demonstrates diminished physical capacity for movement then it strengthens his or her case.

Now it seems to me that this could be a good thing – except for the fact that if this new system becomes standardised it could lead to long, drawn out personal injury compensation claims as the data is gathered. I mean for what it’s worth,if you’re going to make injured claimants hobble about for months to prove they were actually injured, effectively making them suffer for longer than they would need to, what good is this new system?

In other words, it sounds like a good, but misguided idea to me. I’m sure that maybe in some instances it might work, but in most? Feels dodgy to me.

Car insurance scammers being caught left and right

Industry news roundup: week ended 13 Oct 2014:

Fraudsters trying to run scams on car insurance companies are being caught left and right at the moment, which should hopefully keep motoring costs down.

Nobody likes the idea of freeloaders faking accidents in order to get big payouts from car accident claims, but it’s been going on for years. Insurance scams are awful for everyone, as with each bogus personal injury compensation payout that leaves the coffers of insurers we all have to foot the bill in the form of hiked insurance premiums, and I for one am tired of it. That’s what makes stories recounting how scammers and fraudsters are caught so brilliant and entertaining to me.

The news was absolutely filled with them this week, and I was just chuffed to bits to read each one. One of my favourites recounts how a fraudster who tried to walk off with £75,000 from a whiplash claim got shut down hard after dashcam footage from the lorry he cut off exposed his scam to the public – and saw his ill-gotten gains go up in smoke.

Now I’m not one for invasive surveillance but I’m all for these whole dashboard-mounted cameras. If they were fitted to every lorry and HGV on British roadways the amount of of insurance fraud in the UK would surely go down, and with fewer personal injury claims being paid out by the nation’s insurers I’d like to think that insurance rates for everyone would drop like a stone. Meanwhile I’m also happy to hear that bogus accident claims made by fraudsters on foot are also being looked into as well; the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department of the London Police just announced it had nicked 11 scammers that had possibly been trumping up claims in the wake of bogus ‘slip and trip’ injuries.

I’m absolutely gratified to hear how so many people are being caught red-handed. These thick pillocks need to be taken down a peg if you ask me, and I’m glad that it’s happening in a very public way that I can only hope will result in massive fines and more than just a bit of jail time for all the individuals involved. My hat’sa off to the IFED for tirelessly dragging these bastards out into the light of day where they can be disposed of properly.

Too many injured are going without compensation

Industry news roundup: week ended 6 Oct 2014:

When it comes to claiming personal injury compensation, it seems like all too many Brits are being denied access to justice – and that’s a serious problem.

It’s not just me who thinks there’s an issue, either – major organisations have had it with hearing reports about how people in dire need of compensation are being denied on accident claims. One such group, Motorcycle Law Scotland, recently spoke out on the issue, with founder Brenda Mitchell saying that insurers need to stop trying to sweep legitimately injured people under the rug because they don’t want to pay out on claims.

These insurance companies are treating injured individuals in an inhumane manner, Ms Mitchell claims, especially when it comes to whiplash claims. While it’s true that claims fraud can be a problem – and that whiplash is a favourite of fraudsters due to the difficulties associated with disproving whiplash – there’s simply too many people with real claims being left out in the dark, the group’s founder added.

For what it’s worth this is a definite problem facing the personal injury claims industry at the moment, but I’m unsure what types of steps can be taken to rectify it short of forcing insurers to take these sorts of claims more seriously. Still, it could be worse for many claimants, much as it has become for one Army veteran: his story will most likely get you hopping mad.

Former corporal Jason Wilkes, who was caught in a suicide bombing whilst serving in Iraq, has become so disillusioned with the way his own government has been mistreating him. The Army has left him out to dry despite the injuries he received in the attack, which include not just burns and shrapnel wounds but also a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis as well.

Wilkes has been desperate to get treatment and compensation, especially for his PTSD in the wake of his injuries. Still, Army medical evaluations have been reluctant to help him; it took until 2012 before his PTSD diagnosis was confirmed, despite the fact that the incident that led to him developing it was in 2006. The poor man has been so incensed by his treatment that he’s handed his Armed Forces Veterans Badge in to Easington MP Graham Morris, telling him to pass it along to Defence Minister Anna Soubry.

Insurers say injury claims fraud is a developing problem

Industry news roundup: week ended 22 Sept 2014:

Fraudulent personal injury claims made against insurance policies are becoming more and more of a problem, according to the nation’s insurance providers.

In fact, according to insurers these criminal fraudsters are getting more and more brazen and inventive in their attempts to bilk cash out of supposedly hapless insurance companies. The newest thing that these scammers will try will probably surprise you: new research says that it’s no longer whiplash claims that are the go-to when it comes to fraud but instead industrial deafness claims instead.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau said recently that criminal gangs, which have usually been involved in ‘cash for crash’ road traffic accident claims have since packed up their bags and moved on to bigger and better things. There have been enough legislative changes to the industry that whiplash claims just aren’t profitable any more, and this has caused fraudsters to migrate to new areas – and the Association of British Insurers agrees with the IFB’s assessment.

Meanwhile it’s not just these highly organized rings of criminals that engage in insurance fraud – sometimes it’s the bloke next door. Well, at least the ABI seems to think so, as the industry body says that just regular everyday fraud – like not telling your insurer how many motoring convictions or previous claims you’ve had whilst making a new application – is occurring at record rates.

Apparently the ABI identified more than 180,000 instances of attempted fraud last year. That works out to nearly 500 applications with fraudulent information on them every day, and nearly all of these instances revolved around customers trying to pull the wool over the eyes of insurers in an attempt to save some cash.

Now I’m not condoning insurance fraud – far from it – but maybe this should be a message to insurers that their prices are too high. What do you think? If there were 180,000 applications put in last year that kept information from insurers in an attempt to get a cheaper policy price, that’s not exactly just a drop in the bucket. That sounds more like the situation is indicating that Brits have had enough of being soaked for as much cash as possible just for the so-called privilege of driving their own car. Honestly though ladies and gents, there are better ways to save cash on your insurance policy – don’t go breaking the law for a few quid!

Not all accident claim fraudsters are criminal masterminds

Industry news roundup: week ended 11 Aug 2014:

While insurers will like to tell you that accident claim fraud is a serious problem right now, the truth is that scammers are caught red handed all the time.

Truth be told, when it comes to spurious personal injury claims, very little fraud actually goes undetected. In fact there number of criminal masterminds operating sophisticated fraud rings are few and far between – most are complete amateurs trying to get some extra cash from their car accident claims after initiating a poorly-planned and sloppily-executed cash for crash type scam.

Want a good example: well hold on to your knickers, as this week there’s not one but two fantastic ones that will show you just how daft some of these individuals are. First up was the story of how a pair of step-siblings had their plan to fake a pair of whiplash claims were uncovered. 62 year old Steven Phillips hired a van, apparently without realizing there was a GPS tracker fitted to it, and then rang up his step-sister 57 year old Terrina Downes and staged a crash on a secluded roadway – then reported the incident as happening somewhere completely different. Needless to say the car hire firm investigated the issue and blew the whole scheme wide open, much to the chagrin of Downes and Phillips!

So yes that’s rather daft, don’t you think? For what it’s worth some fraudsters are even more stupid. Don’t believe me? Well think about this story: a particularly dim-witted scammer named Kyle Denton, who had injured his hand rather badly in a drunken altercation with another man, tried to pass the injury off as stemming from a run in with a pothole that caused him to trip and fall. He almost got away with it too, but for his own absolute stupidity: he had already met with his local authority to start the compensation process, but then the pillock went and posted a picture of his injured finger on Facebook – along with a message about how he had actually been in a punch-up.

So you see? These are the kinds of absolute geniuses trying to defraud insurers and local authorities. Do you really think fraud is still that much of a problem?

Aviva pushes for consultation, research refutes their claims

Industry news roundup: week ended 4 Aug 2014:

Major insurance provider Aviva has been pushing for a Government consultation on whiplash claims, yet even as they do so evidence emerges that it’s not needed.

The insurer has been whinging lately about how much money it’s shelling out when it comes to personal injury compensation attached to whiplash claims. Fraud is incredibly rampant, Aviva says, and the number of spurious accident claims being made against it are positively crippling it financially. To that effect it made waves last week in pushing for an idea as absolutely stupid as it is revolutionary: eliminating cash awards for whiplash claims and instead only providing rehabilitation. Aviva’s idea is that it will eliminate fraud since there’s no actual cash awards any more.

The idea is of course laughable, but Aviva is married to the concept. It’s even gone so far as to urge the Ministry of Justice to conduct a public consultation in the hopes that it will build up steam. I suppose you have to give the insurer credit where it’s due by not giving up, but I don’t really think they’re going to get anywhere with this whole concept. Meanwhile new research has just come to light that reveals how flawed Aviva’s approach might be – a new YouGov poll revealed that the number of people making claims for personal injury are relatively low.

In fact, YouGov found that today only one out of every four Brits that suffered an accident or injury of any kind would actually pursue a personal injury compensation claim today. That’s a drop of about four percentage points from the last YouGov poll in 2013, indicating that there are actually less people inclined to make claims against insurers today than there were just 12 short months ago. Fewer potential claimants means fewer claims as well – and that means less money flowing out of Aviva’s coffers (or the coffers of all insurers) and into the pockets of the injured.

Apparently that’s just not enough for Aviva; they want to limit their liability by much more. I’m sure they’d love that but that’s not how this game is played – if Aviva wants to not pay so much in whiplash claims maybe it should run a few advert campaigns on not driving like bloody lunatics. It would likely be more effective in the long run.



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!

The fight against compensation culture goes ever on

Industry news roundup: week ended 9 June 2014:

A new salvo has been fired by regulators against personal injury lawyers in an effort to combat so-called compensation culture, but will it really do anything?

If there’s one thing that gets the knickers of policymakers and insurance companies in a twist, it’s the idea that there’s some sort of compensation culture alive and well in the UK – as if personal injury solicitors are enticing injured Brits to make spurious accident claims in order to line their own pockets. Now, I’m not going to say that there aren’t those particularly vile ambulance chasers out there, but for the most part there’s very little activity like that going on. Nevertheless there’s a new spate of regulations going forward soon to limit this alleged activity.

The newest target of the anti-compensation culture crusade is the elimination of incentives to bring personal injury claims. In other words, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling recently went on record saying he’s going to stamp out legal firms from offering things like cash up front, shopping vouchers, or even high end electronics such as laptops or iPads as an incentive to bring a personal injury compensation claim. Mr Grayling has high hopes this will stamp out insurance fraud as a result.

Now I won’t lie – there are some firms that engage in this behaviour. Is it right? Absolutely not. Are the number of firms that do this materially contributing to fraud figures? If you ask me, not a bloody chance. In fact, there’s statistical data to back me up as well – the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers released data recently that found that over the course of an entire year the amount of claimants bring fraudulent claims was minuscule.

When it comes to the big bad guy of fraud – whiplash claims – the figures were particularly damning. Fraud figures for whiplash claims are laughably low – something like seven per cent according to Apil. Honestly this just gives the lie to the idea that fraud – particularly whiplash fraud – is so out of control that it’s beggaring the insurance industry. I don’t know what insurers are trying to pull by crying wolf like this, but if you ask me it’s probably a half-arsed attempt to justify their constantly climbing insurance premiums by blaming this myth of a compensation culture. Rather dastardly if you ask me!

Insurers up in arms over car accident claim figures

Industry news roundup: week ended 28 Apr 2014:

The British insurance industry has had it with the state of the car accident claims sector amidst complaints that crash for cash schemes are running rampant.

If there’s anything the insurance industry hates – especially the car insurance industry – it’s paying out on accident claims. The occasional road traffic accident happens of course, and it’s part of doing business, but some insurers are apparently convinced that there’s a major fraud problem when it comes to things like whiplash claims and other crash for cash scams.

Well, this week new data was released by major insurer Aviva saying that it has evidence that there was almost 20 per cent more fraud last year than there was the year before. Aviva blamed packs of roving gangs perpetrating the crime and also complained that there just wasn’t enough to deter criminals from engaging in the behaviour.

Now whether or not this is accurate is really anyone’s guess. I mean an insurer will do pretty much anything and everything to reduce the amount of money they pay out on an annual basis to policyholders, so people making road traffic accident claims are obviously going to be scrutinised. A large problem is indeed that there’s no real deterrents in place, but this may be changing soon as well thanks to another news story I read this week concerning how one insurer is actually offering 10 per cent off the cost of annual cover if they fit a dashboard camera to their car to capture the details of any accidents they happen to be involved in.

Part of me thinks this is a good idea in that a motorist can prove though dashboard camera footage that they really weren’t responsible for an accident that they were involved in. At the same time, do we really need more cameras watching our every move? The number of CCTV cameras in the UK alone is massive and I would really like to have a bit of privacy once and while. That 10 per cent discount seems paltry in comparison, especially if it’s the price of giving up our freedom. Besides what’s to stop insurers from keeping an eye on us at all times and not just during accidents? I don’t need them raising my insurance premium because they catch me occasionally exceeding the speed limit or braking too hard. Nosy bastards!

Whiplash backlash as legal costs rise, could affect claimants

Industry news roundup: week ended 4 Nov 2013:

Legal costs for whiplash claims are on the rise, prompting new measures designed to stem the rising tide but may end up hurting legitimate claimants.

So here we go, ladies and gentlemen: this week, it was revealed that it costs around £2,500 in legal fees to bring a small accident claim where whiplash injury is involved. Or at least that’s what the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries claims, as the organisation says these costs have gone up by 15 per cent in the three years since new legal reforms were put in place to limit these types of costs.

So in other words, the Institute is saying, these reforms haven’t done anything to make things less expensive for insurers. Of course it did concede that the new Legal Aid law will likely reduce the costs incurred by the insurance industry.

The problem here is it seems as if organisations and trade bodies are more interested in how to save insurers money than they are with the fact that people injured in car accidents through no fault of their own are entitled to be made whole by the responsible party. For what it’s worth, maybe we should make it harder for insurance fraud to occur instead of just making it harder for everyone to bring a claim, both legitimately injured people and scammers alike.

Now the Government may have hit on a good solution for this, according to another news story this week: an independent medical panel system is being planned where injured accident victims will be examined to determine the extent of their injuries. Now this may sound like a good idea on the face of it, but I was under the impression that a whiplash injury is hard to prove medically, as the type of soft tissue injury that characterises whiplash isn’t all that easy to prove. You’ve got to go on the symptoms patients are reporting instead, which makes me wonder what these independent medical panels are actually going to accomplish that a GP can’t.

Typical example of more government waste, if you ask me. You know if half the time, energy and money was spent looking into better detection and treatment methods for whiplash instead of all this rubbish maybe we wouldn’t have such a whiplash epidemic in the UK right now!