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Crackdown on car whiplash scammers; IT CAN'T COME SOON ENOUGH SAYS THE AA.

Byline: PETER WOODMAN

REFORM of the car whiplash injury claim system "cannot come soon enough", the AA said today.

Whiplash injury claims cost insurers more than pounds 2 billion last year, adding around pounds 90 to the cost of a typical car insurance policy, the AA said.

The comments came as ministers hosted a motor insurance summit in London, with the Government expected to outline measures to "weed out" false claims.

The measures could include proposals to tackle "questionable" medical evidence and encourage insurance companies to challenge dubious claims.

The AA said that over the past two years, claims for whiplash injury contributed to the biggest car insurance premium increases ever recorded.

Over the two years, the average shop-around quote for a comprehensive policy rose by nearly 50%, the AA added.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, said: "I hope that today's Government announcement will see a tight timescale applied to reform of the civil litigation which at present, encourages people to make a claim regardless of how serious their injury is or even if they have not suffered injury at all.

"Importantly, we need reforms that clamp down on cold-call claims management and personal injury firms who have contributed to the growth of claims."

He went on: "The present dysfunctional system has also spawned a fraudulent multimillion-pound 'cash for crash' industry."

Mr Douglas said he was disappointed in the slow rate of progress shown in the House of Commons Transport Committee's latest report on motor insurance, published in April.

He added: "But I acknowledge that a lot of momentum has built up. Reform can't come soon enough. It is wrong that injury claims are rising while the number of accidents on Britain's roads is falling."

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said the Government's plans will aim to tackle questionable medical evidence and make it "quicker, cheaper and easier for valid injury claims to be dealt with through the small claims court".

Proposals, to be outlined in a consultation document this summer, will include consulting on the feasibility of introducing independent medical panels.

The independent medical experts, who would have no direct links to either claimants or defendants, would replace the current assessment of whiplash injuries by either GPs or doctors employed by medical reporting organisations.

Doctors can currently receive a fee of up to pounds 195 to process these claims.

Other proposals include raising the limit for personal injury cases in the small claims court from pounds 1,000 to pounds 5,000.

The Government will also "strongly encourage insurers to pass on the savings back to their customers", Mr Clarke said.

He added: "It is scandalous that we have a system where it is cheaper for insurers to settle a spurious whiplash claim out of court than defend it, creating rocketing insurance premiums for honest drivers.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 2, 2012
Words:467
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