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Whiplash fraudsters waste one million NHS hours

Press release: 13/02/2015

  1. Doctors report that they see 116,000 people every month they suspect are inventing or exaggerating an injury in order to claim compensation
  2. Close to a million GP hours are wasted every year on fraudsters using NHS doctors to make an insurance claim
  3. Doctors are seeing more 'suspect' cases than they were three years ago
  4. Eight in ten (78%) UK car accidents where one driver accepts liability involve a compensation claim for whiplash - twice the international average

The NHS is being put under increasing strain as more people attempt to claim compensation from exaggerated or invented injuries.

The study, by LV= car insurance, reveals that doctors are seeing more people they suspect of feigning or exaggerating injuries in order to claim compensation following a car accident than they were three years ago[1]. Doctors report that the problem is becoming more widespread with two fifths (43%) saying they now see these types of cases on a frequent basis, compared to just a quarter (26%) in 2012[2].

It is estimated that doctors are collectively seeing around 116,000[3] suspect cases a month, which is eating up close to a million surgery hours each year[4]. GPs report that dealing with these types of cases not only takes away valuable appointment time from genuine patients, but that additional surgery hours are lost dealing with the law firms and claims companies pestering them for paperwork.

While whiplash continues to be the number one injury that fraudsters feign to claim compensation, it appears that some are now inventing additional injuries in order to avoid scrutiny or to get a higher pay-out. Nearly a third (29%) of doctors say they're seeing a wider variety of injuries linked to compensation claims than they were three years ago, and LV= claims data shows there is a growing number of suspicious cases where compensation is sought for head, back and psychological injuries.

The study also highlighted a number of problems that doctors come up against when presented with a patient they suspect is exaggerating or inventing symptoms to claim compensation, with many saying that they do not have enough information to go on. Three quarters (72%) of GPs say they would be better equipped to assess an injury resulting from a car accident if they had all the details of the accident circumstances rather than having to rely on what the claimant or their solicitor tells them.

When presented with a claimant that a doctor suspects is making up or exaggerating an injury to get a payout, it can be difficult for the GP to challenge this. Over half (52%) of doctors say fraudsters have tried to pressure them into agreeing with them about their condition, when they had doubts about their injuries. As a result, when suspecting fraud, most GPs (77%) use a careful choice of words in their medical report such as 'the patient alleges' in order to signal their scepticism.

Legislation was introduced in 2013 to curb the growing number of exaggerated and spurious personal injury claims[5], but it appears that this has not had a long-term impact. The UK sees more compensation claims for whiplash injuries per car accident than any other Western European country. According to insurance data, close to eight in ten (78%) car accidents in the UK where one driver accepts liability involve a compensation claim for whiplash, which is more than double the international average. By comparison, only 35% of Dutch claims include a whiplash element, 31% of Spanish claims and 30% of French claims[6].

In order to crackdown on those attempting to fraudulently claim compensation, the government is setting up a new medical reporting panel, MedCo, which is due to go live 1 April. After this date, all those attempting to claim compensation for whiplash following a car accident will have to get a medical report from an accredited MedCo professional. Practitioners wanting to join the panel will have to gain special accreditation and be independent of any claims company.

Verifying personal injury claims takes up a lot of time and places unnecessary pressure on our already stretched health service. The cost of dealing with fraudulent claims not only pushes up the cost of car insurance for honest motorists but it also hurts the public purse. While insurers, working with government, have made good progress in the crackdown on fraud, it appears that fraudsters are trying new tactics to beat the system and claim compensation they are not entitled to. Those tempted to make a claim when they do not have an injury should think again as making a fraudulent claim could lead to a hefty fine or prison sentence.

Martin Milliner, LV= Claims Director

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Notes:

  1. In Jan 2012, 87% of GPs had seen a patient they suspect of exaggerating or inventing an injury to claim compensation.
  2. In Jan 2015 this figure had increased to 92%. In Jan 2012, 26% of GPs reported that they frequently see patients they suspect of exaggerating or inventing an injury to claim compensation, and this rose to 43% in Jan 2015.
  3. According to the latest figures from the British Medical Association (published in July 2014) there were 43,000 sessional GPs practicing across the UK. The average reported number of cases seen by each GP per month is 2.7. 2.7 x 43,000 = 116,100. NB – this is almost certainly an underestimate as the GP numbers does not include Locum GPs (there is no official figure for the number of Locum GPs operating available but is expected to be in the range of 15,000-17,000).
  4. According to the latest figures from the British Medical Association (published in July 2014) there were 43,000 sessional GPs practicing across the UK. GPs spend 1.72 hours on average seeing patients they suspect of inventing or exaggerating an injury to claim compensation every month. 1.72 x 43,000 = 73,960 hours per month or 887,520 hours a year (close to one million).
  5. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act: www.justice.gov.uk/civil-justice-reforms
  6. Figures sourced from the ABI's submission to the Transport Select Committee's Inquiry into Whiplash (Dec 2013 www.abi.org.uk). ABI used their own data in conjunction with figures submitted by the Danish Insurance Association, Insurance Sweden, Dutch Association of Insurers, Unespa, Fédération Française des Sociétés d'Assurances, ANIA.

For further information please contact:

Vanessa Chance, vanessa.chance@lv.com, 0208 256 6996 / 07947 380074


LV=

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When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

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