April 28, 2015
According to AXA Chief Executive Paul Evans, when drivers are involved in a collision their immediate thought isn't "I want to keep costs my down and fix the car" but "how can I profit from this?" Then late last year Aviva also announced that they had experienced a significant rise in 'crash for cash' insurance fraud.
However this isn't just limited to road users; if you believe what you read, Britain is suffering from an acute case of 'compensation culture'. Politicians, journalists, even High Court judges have all waxed lyrical about this blight on our society.
I believe this could not be further from the truth and in no way reflects what I witness first hand as a solicitor.
The number of road accident claims is not increasing
We deal with people everyday who are simply seeking recompense for a road injury they have suffered. More often than not, they come to us as a means of last resort having exhausted all their other options.
This is backed up by data which provides empirical evidence that the facts are at odds with all the hype.
A YouGov poll published in July showed that only 25% of Brits would even consider making a claim if they suffered an injury - a figure which is down 4% on the previous year.
Data from The Work and Pensions' Compensation Recovery Unit, which collects statistics for all personal injury claims, also makes interesting reading. It shows that there has actually been a 3% reduction in overall claims since 2012. Interestingly, the area of personal injury claims which is most targeted by the press and the politicians, road incidents, has fallen by 7% since 2011. Claims for whiplash, often cited as the most abused personal injury claim type, have also fallen by nearly a third.
Looking at the figures it is difficult to see how it can be asserted that British society is somehow obsessed with compensation claims. It seems harder still to apply the label to drivers.
The fraudulent claims argument
A common argument put forward by bodies such as the Association of British Insurers (ABI) is that these figures do not show the levels of fraudulent claims made in the UK. According to the ABI, 'undetected general insurance claims fraud totals £2.1bn a year' with 'crash for cash' fraud, in particular costing £392 million a year. Just last year, Aviva claimed that 'crash for cash' claims were at an all-time high, having increased by 21% since 2013. However these figures are likely speculative in nature and cannot be taken as gospel.
These speculative figures create a lack of clarity with regards to the actual level of fraud in the system. The Transport Select Committee even went as far as to recognise questionable insurance figures in its recent report 'Driving premiums down: fraud and the cost of motor insurance'.
They recommended that the government needs to ensure that:
"there exists better data about fraudulent or exaggerated PI claims, so that there is a stronger evidence base for policy decisions" and that "since the Government has added the ABI's figures for dishonest claims in 2013, it should explain how the figures have been arrived at and how dishonest claims have been defined."
Injured people have the right to seek justice
More important than all these statistics though, is that the phrase 'compensation culture' instantly invokes distrust of anyone seeking perfectly just redress for an injury. As the research shows, this distrust is unfounded and distracts from the real issue at hand - justice. If you are injured in a road collision that was not your fault, justice demands you are compensated for your losses. This should not be up for dispute.
We should support a system which allows those injured on our roads to seek appropriate justice.
The term 'compensation culture' is a divisive one, demonising those who need our help most. We need to ensure better outcomes, rehabilitation and care for injured drivers.
Those of us who use Britain's road network can draw comfort from the knowledge that we have some of the safest roads in Europe, but we must also make sure that when we do suffer an injury, we always receive a fair hearing and appropriate compensation.