Whiplash claimants should only receive general damages compensation if there is objective medical evidence of them having been injured, the Association for British Insurers said today.
Speaking at a conference in Bristol, the association's head of motor and liability, James Dalton, called for 'radical action' to tackle fraudulent whiplash claims. The ABI says whiplash claims are pushing up the cost of the average motor insurance policy by 20%.
Despite a fall in the number of car crashes, the number of whiplash claims has increased by a third over the past three years. Annually, 570,000 people claim for whiplash injuries, costing insurers over £2bn and adding £90 a year to the average annual motor premium of £440.
Mr Dalton said: 'If whiplash was an Olympic sport, the UK would be gold medallists. The fact that whiplash is virtually impossible to disprove means that for too many it has become the fraud of choice, often aided and abetted by ambulance-chasing lawyers and claims management firms.'
He added: 'The crackdown on our whiplash epidemic has started with the Government's reform of civil litigation which will reduce the scope for 'have a go' claims. But we also need to consider radical action if we are to get a grip on whiplash.'
As well as proposing a system where general damages are only paid if there is objective medical evidence of injury, the ABI is also calling for a cap or reduction to the level of damages for whiplast claims.
A panel of independent doctors should be tasked with assessing whiplash claims, rather than the claimant's GP, it said, and greater use should be made of bio-mechanical evidence. This could enable the introduction of a speed threshold under which there would be a presumption that whiplash had not occurred.
Mr Dalton added: 'Only by thinking big and bold can we reduce the whiplash problem and the costs of motor insurance.'