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Damages for whiplash injuries

Part of Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 23rd October 2018.

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Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng Conservative, Spelthorne 3:45 pm, 23rd October 2018

In his usual philosophical way, the Minister has made an observation that goes to the heart of the problem. I opened my remarks by suggesting that insurers were very likely to pay out on claims early. He has made the point that even if it were possible to test the veracity or otherwise, it would be very difficult. Given the nature of evidence and the question of how it can be proved that an injury has actually been sustained, this will often resolve itself into an issue of one person’s word against another’s. The Minister has backed up my initial argument in his characteristically pithy way. The whole process is expensive, and for an insurer managing a business and managing a book, it is much easier and, I think, much more tempting to come up with an easy, quick-fix settlement or payment.

As Bambos Charalambous suggested, that in itself will incentivise and motivate claims that may be frivolous, which is a problem. He has eloquently described the circumstances in which fraudulent claims can be made, yet other Opposition Members are saying that such fraudulent claims are rarely if ever made. They are suggesting that all the claims are true and that somehow grave injustices would be perpetrated if, as often occurs across the judicial system, we were to set a tariff in this particular case.

It is entirely reasonable to set a tariff on these claims. The average taxpayer and the average person who has insurance does not want to see fraudulent claims. Let us review some of the evidence. We have anecdotal evidence. Even on Second Reading Members were suggesting they were getting texts the whole time encouraging them to make specious claims. Some Members read out the texts they were receiving from insurance companies, or from claimants who were making a great deal of money, to encourage people to make spurious claims. This is going on and to pretend otherwise is wilfully naïve.

Where we are is exactly where we should be: it is absolutely right that we should be setting a tariff on these injuries and that there is some degree of political oversight of that process. It is not right, however, that judges should exclusively be in charge of the tariff rates. There is a role for the courts, but there is also a role for the Executive, and that is captured in this proposed legislation.