Peers debate new 'cash for treatment' approach to whiplash claims

A leading lawyer has suggested that victims of minor injuries caused by road traffic accident, for example whiplash, should have their treatment funded instead of receiving cash payouts in a bid to reduce the UK's "compensation culture".

Solicitor and former Cabinet minister Lord Hunt of Wirral suggested the focus from insurers should be on "getting people better rather than paying them cash that isn't then used for treatment".

His proposals put forward in the House of Lords are aimed at stopping courts from awarding damages for small injuries if the negligent driver/their insurer funded treatment for the victim. According to the Tory peer, this would only cover those cases where the claimant has suffered "a loss of function of 15% or less".

Explaining his proposals during the committee stage of the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Bill, Lord Hunt 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?"

"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.

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

He also quoted research showing that 94% of all UK road traffic accident-related personal injury claims were for minor whiplash, whereas in France only 3% of claims were for whiplash.

Lord Hunt went on to claim that his suggested amendments to the SARAH Bill would cut insurance premiums by £32, as it would discourage a growing 'compensation culture':

"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."

In arguing against Lord Hunt's proposals, leading QC Lord Pannick raised the issue of compensation being awarded not just for treatment costs, but also for pain and suffering caused by the injuries:

"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?"

Labour peer Lord Beecham criticised Lord Hunt's proposals further, stating that although it is necessary to seek to deal with any "abuses of the current system", the proposed amendments would achieve "very little".

Following this criticism Lord Hunt withdrew his amendments before putting it forward to vote.


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