Whitehall Summit On Cutting Whiplash Claims

Jane Dougall, Sky News reporter

Reforms to stop false whiplash claims pushing up insurance premiums were discussed by five ministers, consumer groups and insurers at a summit in London.

The Transport Secretary Justine Greening chaired a Whitehall meeting looking at ways to reverse the "compensation culture".

In the last five years, road traffic accidents have decreased by 23% but claims have increased by 70%, according to the Department for Transport.

After the summit, Ms Greening said: "There is no one silver bullet to tackling fraudulent whiplash claims or reducing young driver premiums but we have already taken decisive action by banning referral fees, reforming no-win no-fee rules and cracking down on fraud.

"This latest summit shows we continue to work closely with the insurance industry and consumer groups to tackle the compensation culture and find more ways of bringing down the cost of insurance premiums.

"Building on what we have already achieved together, we are doing everything possible to drive down the cost of motor insurance and I believe that by the end of the year, when we and the industry have completed further work, we will be able to bring forward yet more proposals to do this."

The action is likely to include independent panels of doctors to tackle "questionable" medical evidence.

The 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 £195 to process these claims and some have a regular client base of solicitors.

However, the root of the problem is that whiplash is tough to disprove.

Spinal surgeon John O'Dowd said: "It's very difficult for the doctor in isolation to say if the whiplash is fraudulent or not.

"Generally down the line we only pick it up when we see (covert) video footage of our patients who are claiming they are very disabled, but are clearly functioning normally on the video."

Britain is now the whiplash capital of Europe, with 1,500 claims made every day.

False compensation claims cost insurance firms around £2bn a year which adds £90 a year to the average premium.

Other measures that were set to be considered at the summit included:

:: claims from cars travelling under 10mph to be stopped;

:: no-win, no-fee rules to be changed;

:: referral fees paid by lawyers to take on personal injury cases banned;

:: ensuring it is not cheaper for insurers to settle a spurious claim out of court rather than to take on personal injury firms.