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Personal injury roundup - Are claims going up or down?

Are claims going up or down?

Wildly conflicting opinions suggesting whiplash claims have gone both up and down, leaves this month’s news roundup with little choice but to try and cut through the confusion.

May has been a very busy month for the personal injury claims professional and this is without even mentioning the debates over the Medco Portal. News reported from both sides of the claimant and defendant trade media seems to be as polarised as it’s ever been and anyone with a rose-tinted sense that our adversarial system would one day be replaced by a culture of co-operation and trust between insurers and legal practitioners may have to wait a little while longer.

Our roundup begins with a debate over whiplash claims after the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers confidently told the press that its Freedom of Information Request to the Compensation Recovery Unit, showing a 23% drop in claims since LASPO, was a sign that claims inflation was under control.

Clear as mud…

APIL’s FOI request to the CRU found that just under 377,000 whiplash claims were registered in 2014/2015, down from 488,221 in 2012/2013, which the Law Society Gazette reported as “casting a new light on insurers’ claims of a whiplash ‘epidemic’”, and quoting APIL president Jonathan Wheeler who said: “now we have cast-iron evidence that whiplash claims are falling.”

Ten days later and Post Magazine reported its own analysis with the support of figures from Simon Denyer, a partner at DWF. Denyer compared CRU annual data, whiplash-only data (the figure quoted by APIL above) and data from the Claims Portal. Unsurprisingly, the result was a denial that claims were falling and that APIL’s FOI request had “misrepresented” the issue. Despite the fact the CRU data does indeed indicate a considerable fall in whiplash-only claims, he argued that this  data involved “more subjectivity”, as claims registered with the CRU “have to be marked up as whiplash by claimant lawyers…and there is becoming a greater tendency to add additional components such as claims for psychological damages, alongside whiplash.”

If it has not been done so already, this debate certainly belongs on Radio 4’s excellent statistics programme More or Less.

Signs of co-operation

Of course, it’s not all adversarial and PremeXtra wouldn’t be playing fair if we suggested otherwise! The case in point this month was a report of “an unprecedented joint project” led by the Association of British Insurers, the Law Society, APIL and the Motor Accident Solicitors Society called askCUE. The system, designed to enable claimant solicitors to carry out background searches to check for a history of fraud is described by Law Society CEO Catherine Dixon as “a huge step forward, showing that we can all work together to achieve a common objective which will benefit consumers”.

In other news, concerns about the continued practice of settling claims without medical evidence have once again been raised as the Civil Justice Council and APIL responded to the insurance fraud task force. The CJC said that defendant behaviours and business models should be addressed and that “medical examinations provide important checks and balances to the process…if money is offered in the absence of medical evidence, this has the potential to create an environment of easy money, encouraging opportunistic claims”.

ABI election demands hint at debate for 2015-2016

And finally, Noise Induced Hearing Loss claims have been targeted once again by insurers, who reminded the incoming government that it thinks fixed fees should be introduced. The ABI sent out its top 10 priorities just prior to polling day, reiterating calls made alongside a demand for a rise in the small claims limit and more regulation for claims management companies. None of this is particularly surprising, said the Law Society Gazette, but “indicates the likelihood of heated debate over the coming years”…