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Road Traffic Accident? Don't Listen To The Insurers!

View profile for Kay Ditcham
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There has been an onslaught in the press recently of articles from insurers blaming the rising cost of motor insurance premiums on “whiplash claims” and “personal injury lawyers”, the suggestion being that it is wrong of people to consult a solicitor with a view to making a claim for injuries they have sustained in a road traffic accident.

There have been a number of allusions to “fraud”, “crash for cash” and the like when the reality is that fraudulent claims are few and far between.  The insurance industry however is attempting to tar all claimants with the same brush.  Whiplash is a genuine injury and people who suffer it as a result of another’s negligent driving deserve to be compensated.

The legal costs associated with personal injury claims arising out of road traffic accidents have been reduced significantly over the last ten years.

The Predictable Costs Scheme was introduced in 2005.  Legal costs were calculated by reference to the amount of compensation recovered.  Thus, it was relatively fair, as higher value cases usually require more work.   However, the entire system of dealing with low value claims arising out of road traffic accidents was then radically overhauled in 2010 with the introduction of an online portal together with fixed legal costs.  The portal protocol was then revised in 2013, at which time the recoverable legal costs were more than halved from the previous regime.

It is difficult to see therefore how the insurers can continue to blame claimants and their solicitors for increased premiums given the substantial reductions in the amount of costs that they have had to pay over the last ten years.

In return for the introduction of the portal in 2010, the insurers promised that motor insurance premiums would be lowered.  They have yet to deliver this and are once again publicly complaining about the “high cost of whiplash claims”.  They seem to be of the mindset that if the public read it often enough they will believe it to be true.

The fact is that the number of injury claims arising out of road traffic accidents has dropped year on year since 2010.  Statistics from the Compensation Recovery Unit demonstrate a decline in the number of whiplash claims and indeed a decline in the number of motor accident claims overall.
Claimants should not be dissuaded from making a claim for their injuries if they have been injured in a road traffic accident through no fault of their own.  One of the reasons that motor insurance is compulsory in the UK is to facilitate such claims and insurers should not demonise injured parties for seeking compensation to which they are entitled.  Such claimants should also not be deterred from seeking independent legal advice in order to make such a claim.
It is common practice amongst a number of insurers to make settlement offers to injured parties very shortly after an accident, but Tilly Bailey & Irvine would not recommend that claimants consider such offers or indeed deal directly with insurers.

The Personal Injury Department at Tilly Bailey & Irvine has dealt with numerous claimants who have been offered payments by insurers immediately after an accident, but have ultimately settled their claims for significantly higher sums.  It is worrying to think how many other genuinely injured people have been persuaded to undersettle their claims in this way, either because they do not know that they are entitled to seek independent legal advice or because they are persuaded by the insurers that they will be better off dealing directly with them.

As well as third party insurers even an injured party’s own insurers will sometimes attempt to mislead them.  Where a person has purchased legal expenses insurance along with their motor policy, they will then often be told in the event of an accident that they “must” use the insurance company’s panel solicitors to pursue their personal injury claim.  This is simply not true, everybody has freedom of choice in relation to their legal representatives whether they have legal expenses insurance or not.

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