A senior figure in the insurance industry has suggested that now is the time for whiplash compensation to be stopped completely. James Dalton, who is the Association of British Insurers’ head of motor and liability, called for a public debate about whether now was the time to stop paying damages for whiplash claims of a lower value, and just meet the cost for any medical treatment needed instead.
This is nothing new for Mr Dalton who has in the past talked about reducing the amount of money paid to people who have suffered whiplash, but calling for a complete removal of damages is something new.
Call for a debate on whiplash compensation
Speaking to a claims industry conference in London, James Dalton called for a debate about whether a monetary award is appropriate when the claim is low value and for a low impact, very minor injury. He stated that both the general public and politicians should debate whether simply paying for rehabilitation and medical treatment after this sort of accident was enough.
Dalton also commented on the on-going argument about whether solicitors should get involved in low value claims, and said that the industry is trying to persuade the government to raise the limit for small claims. Last year the government chose not to increase claims limits, but Dalton said that industry were confident that whichever party won the General Election in May 2015, that this would be looked at again.
Involvement of personal injury lawyers
Dalton was quick to recognise the value of experienced personal injury lawyers when the claims were complicated and worth substantial sums. However, he did question whether the lawyers had any role at all when the case was low value. He highlighted the fact the the MoJ agreed that there were some good arguments for making the minimum claim level lawyers could deal with £5000, and felt confident this topic would be revisited in the near future.
Groups representing the interests of claimants, such as the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) and APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) are strongly opposed to any changes to the way in which whiplash compensation is awarded. Chair of MASS, Craig Budworth, said that compensation was never purely about medical rehabilitation. He gave the example of a gym enthusiast who could no longer work out after their accident, and said that in those type of cases the person deserves compensation for not being able to do something they enjoy.
The head of APIL, also raised concerns that removing the role of the solicitor in lower value compensation claims could open the floodgates to fraudulent claims. She stated that when a solicitor sits down to discuss a case with a client, they can tell whether they are hearing the truth or not. If solicitors are taken out of the equation, it removes another barrier for the fraudsters.