The government needs to be clearer as to the intention of its new “fundamentally dishonest” rule for personal injury claims and change the wording accordingly, insurance company AXA has argued.
In a report on public perceptions of whiplash claims, AXA called for the term “fundamentally” to be removed, if the government’s intention was that “any claim found to be dishonest, in any aspect” should be thrown out.
The insurer said that if Parliament wanted to allow judicial discretion as to whether the dishonesty was intentional, allowing for some of the claim to be compensated, the word “fundamentally” should be replaced with something “clearer”, such as “deliberate” or “conscious”.
The “fundamentally dishonest” rule, set out in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, requires a court to dismiss a claim where it is satisfied that the claimant has been fundamentally dishonest, unless it would amount to “substantial injustice”.
Susan Brown, the new chairman of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, warned earlier this month that the rule could result in a “potential windfall for insurers”.
Commenting on the report, Chris Voller, claims director of AXA UK, said that despite the government’s reform agenda and statistics from the Association of British Insurers showing that motor premiums had come down, “what we haven’t seen is a decline in the frequency and number of whiplash-related claims, so there is still more that needs to be done.”
However, figures obtained by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers through a freedom of information request to the Compensation Recovery Unit, revealed earlier this month that whiplash claims had in fact gone down by 29% in past four years.
The AXA report, entitled Whiplash: consumer perspectives on a UK compensation culture pandemic, marked the industry’s latest attack on whiplash, involving a poll of 2,000 members of the public carried out by Populus.
It found that more than two-thirds of people believed the limitation period for whiplash claims should be cut from three years to six months.
The survey suggested that 10% of all consumers had either made a fraudulent or exaggerated whiplash claim themselves or knew someone who had done so.
Researchers said: “There appears to be a general feeling of scepticism around those who claim for whiplash injuries up to three years after the accident. That lack of sympathy can, perhaps, be attributed to the role that claims management companies play in bringing such claims to the fore.”
The report said the findings showed the need for “tighter rules around time limits”, although the UK government had “shown no appetite” to alter the status quo. “The fact that the current system allows for leaving medical examinations until nearly three years post-accident means that the process is highly subjective.”
AXA added the government should consider “as soon as possible” raising the small claims limit for personal injury claims resulting from RTAs from £1,000 to £5,000.