By Daniel Hunter

Anyone claiming whiplash injury should be required to undergo examination by an accredited medical expert under proposals to curb the UK’s whiplash epidemic published today (Wednesday) by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

Everyday 1,500 people claim whiplash injury, with the total number of claimants a year now able to fill Old Trafford more than seven times over. Reported whiplash has risen by nearly a quarter in the last four years, despite the number of road accidents falling. Whiplash claims cost £2 billion a year, adding an extra £90 a year to the average motor insurance premium.

It has been estimated1. that 70% of road accident personal injury claims are for whiplash in the UK, compared to 47% in Germany, 32% in Spain and only 3% in France, earning the UK the unwanted reputation as Whiplash Capital of Europe.

Under the ABI’s proposals:

- Medical assessment of whiplash claims would be carried out by an accredited medical expert. They would need to show their financial independence from claimant solicitors, take into account the circumstances of the collision rather than the claimant’s reported symptoms, and undergo training in latest diagnosis techniques. Accreditation would be carried out by a Board made up of Government, judiciary, claimant interest groups, compensators and medical experts. The Board would develop the accreditation process and standardised whiplash medical reports, and arrange for the claimant to be examined.

- The Small Claims Track Threshold would rise from £1,000 to £5,000 for all road traffic personal injury claims. This is a simple, speedy and cost-effective way of settling smaller claims.

- There would be a laid down prescribed level of damage awards for whiplash, at a level set independently.

- Any claimant whose whiplash claim is in part exaggerated or made up should automatically have their entire claim dismissed.

“We believe our proposals offer the best cure for the UK’s whiplash epidemic. Insurers want to make it simpler and quicker for genuine whiplash claimants to get fair compensation. But whiplash is notoriously difficult to diagnose, which means that for too many people it has become the fraud of choice," James Dalton, the ABI’s Assistant Director of Motor and Liability, said.

“Our proposals will ensure better medical assessment of whiplash claims, offer a quick, simple way of paying genuine claims; provide certainty for claimants and compensators, and deter fraud that ends up being paid for through higher motor insurance premiums.”

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