Victims of crashes ‘should be paid in treatment not cash’

Victims of minor injuries in road traffic accidents should have their treatment funded rather than receive cash payouts in an attempt to rid the UK of a “whiplash culture”, a leading lawyer has said.

Lord Hunt of Wirral, a solicitor and former Cabinet minister, said insurers should focus on “getting people better rather than paying them cash that isn’t then used for treatment”.

He put forward proposed new laws in the House of Lords that would stop courts awarding damages in the case of minor injuries if the driver accused of negligence funded treatment for the victim.

The Tory peer’s plans would only cover cases where a claimant had suffered “a loss of function of 15% or less”.

He said: “We should encourage people with genuine minor injuries simply to make a claim to repair their body rather than for cash. After all, we get the car repaired, why not the body as well?”

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During committee stage of the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, he said: “UK motorists do not really have the weakest necks in Europe.

“We have a whiplash culture because we have not taken the same stance as a society that other European countries have taken to avoid these claims in the first place.

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“In other countries you have to prove a level or percentage of disability before you can even make a claim.”

Lord Hunt said research showed that 94% of all personal injury claims from a UK motor accident were for minor whiplash while in France whiplash counted for 3% of personal injury claims.

He said his amendments to the Bill could cut insurance premiums by £32.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of so-called crash-for-cash scams faced by insurers,” he said.

“Particularly troubling is the increase in the number of induced accidents where fraudsters deliberately target innocent motorists to cause an accident.”

He said insurance company Aviva reported it had increased by 51% in the past year.

Lord Pannick, a leading QC, argued against the amendments.

“If the defendant’s insurer pays for my treatment as the victim of a car accident, would these amendments prevent me from recovering compensation for pain and for suffering as a result of the accident?” he asked.

For Labour, Lord Beecham said it was necessary to deal with the “abuses of the current system” but he said Lord Hunt’s amendments would achieve “very little”.

Justice minister Lord Faulks said the government was “extremely aware” of the problems of fraudulent claims and had taken major steps to address the issue.

But he said: “While the government considers these issues, they need to be considered in a great deal more detail than is possible in the context of this Bill so all their implications can be fully assessed.”

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