RTA’s why have they reduced?

The whiplash reforms were really about one thing only: reducing the number of claims and in turn the costs of car insurance. Any pretence at cutting fraud was undermined by the almost total lack of evidence that fraud was a particular problem. Any attempt to paint the changes as benefitting consumers was highly questionable – and in any case the mooted insurance savings won’t be scrutinised for years.

If the purpose was to reduce claims, then the MoJ should pour itself a glass of bubbly (perhaps the insurers could supply the booze). In the first three months that the Official Claims Portal – the site for all whiplash claims valued less than £5,000 – has been in operation, it received 45,718 claims overall. It’s an eye-catchingly low number. Comparisons with pre-portal years are fraught, but we’ll have a go anyway. From June to September 2020, 104,782 motor claims were recorded by the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU – the government’s yardstick for claims figures). Some of these will have been worth more than £5,000 and so would not have qualified for the portal, but not many – and certainly not enough to account for the 50,000-plus difference. This period of higher figures was, it should also be noted, the height of the pandemic when roads were relatively empty and car crashes were accordingly reduced. This year’s opening three months of the portal covered a period in which more vehicles were back on the road, and many more people than usual were driving to UK-based holidays than would have done before, yet the numbers are low. The comparison with pre-pandemic figures is staggering. From June to September the CRU recorded 168,217 motor claims. Set against the numbers accessing the claims portal (and appreciating this is far from an exact comparison) suggests that claims figures have dropped significantly.

Where have they gone? Perhaps driving behaviours have altered and there are fewer crashes, but it wouldn’t explain such a big drop. It is possible – though unlikely – that some who might have claimed a year ago might not bother now the potential damages are so much lower. This would apply especially to those who might have been prepared to exaggerate their injuries. If we assume that traffic and therefore accidents are not much greater than a year ago, the only explanation must be that people are less able or inclined to make a claim. The number of firms offering their services in lower-value claims has dwindled, and those that have stayed in the market have had to grapple with technology issues on the new portal. The biggest concern is the relatively small number of unrepresented people making claims. Just 10% of cases were from this group, despite considerable efforts to make the system user-friendly. It was envisaged that this proportion would be much higher, so potentially thousands of injured people with a legitimate claim are not able to make it.

The MoJ is pretty content with how the new system has worked on a technical level. Officials won’t admit it, but they must be happy too with these numbers. Claims have fallen, and insurers are sated. Whether justice is being done is another matter altogether.

Credit: John Hyde Dep Ed – Law Gazette