Government delays whiplash decision

Ellman: strong views on all sides

The government will wait until the transport select committee finishes its investigation into whiplash – and until the impact of the LASPO reforms begins to show – before announcing the outcome of its consultation on reform, justice minister Helen Grant announced this morning.

The consultation, which closed on 8 March, committed the government to review the submissions received and publish a response in spring 2013.

The committee announced its inquiry into whiplash – including an examination of the government’s consultation proposals – on 15 March.

In a statement laid before Parliament today, Ms Grant said: “The government believes that, prior to taking any final decisions on whiplash reform, it should give due consideration to the views of the transport committee.

“The government also believes that the impact of its recent civil reform programme on the price of motor insurance premiums needs to be assessed. Consumers should be rewarded with the lower litigation costs being reflected in lower insurance premiums.

“For these reasons the government has decided to defer publication of its formal response to the consultation until after the committee has reported.”

The select committee will next week start taking oral evidence as part of its investigation. After receiving 54 written submissions, the committee’s hearing will begin with a focus on the medical questions around whiplash.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy will be giving evidence, as will the head of the bioengineering research group and Nottingham University, a lecturer in anatomy and behaviour at Nottingham’s school of veterinary medicine and science.

MPs will also hear from Thatcham Research – the motor insurance repair research centre – the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, and the Lloyd’s Market Association, which has made some radical suggestions for reform.

Monday’s session will conclude with MPs probing Dr Simon Margolis, chief executive of leading medical reporting agency Premex Services, and Dr Andre Brittain-Dissont of Dr Brittain-Dissont Medico-Legal Reporting.

There will be a further oral evidence session on 17 June, although the witnesses for it have not yet been named.

Louise Ellman MP, chair of the transport committee, said: “There are strong views on all sides of the debate on whiplash claims.  We will hear oral evidence from different groups on the government’s proposals for reducing the number and cost of whiplash claims. We will discuss with witnesses the impact these proposals might have on reducing motor insurance premiums and on access to justice for injured people.”

Speaking at an Association of British Insurers conference in March when she announced the inquiry, Ms Ellman said her instinct was that “a lot of whiplash claims” are fraudulent” – encouraged by cold calling – but that there are “genuine claims in there too” which must not be lost in the rush to tackle fraud.

The committee sought written evidence under five main headings:

  • Whether the government is correct in describing Great Britain as the “whiplash capital of the world”;
  • Whether it is correct to say that the costs of whiplash claims add £90 to the average premium and, if so, what proportion of this additional cost is due to “exaggerated, misrepresented or fabricated” claims;
  • Whether the proposals put forward by the government, in relation to medical evidence of whiplash and incentives to challenge fraudulent or exaggerated claims, are likely to reduce motor insurance premiums and, if so, to what extent;
  • The likely impact of the proposals on access to justice for claimants who are genuinely injured; and
  • Whether there are other steps which the government should be taking to reduce the cost of motor insurane.