According to articles in The Telegraph and The Sun last week tinnitus is the ‘new fake whiplash’ and a new surge of fraudulent claims is set to increase motor insurance premiums by £90. The reports are sprinkled with supportive quotes from insurers and their lawyers. Quelle surprise. The underlying suggestion is that the Government should take action to stop this, in the same way as they have with whiplash claims.
Is it a case of ‘fake claims’ or ‘fake news’?
There is no evidence that the number or cost of tinnitus claims are rising. The ABI, who rarely miss an opportunity to push back against fraudulent claimants, says it isn’t aware of any significant rise in tinnitus claims. Likewise the ABI’s own data on injury claims, which captures tinnitus claims, shows the cost and number of injury claims continues to fall.
The Sun article claims that “drivers saw their yearly insurance costs rise by up to £90 a year in 2016 due to a surge of whiplash claims that cost insurers £2bn a year”. However, the cost of injury claims settled by motor insurers actually fell by £19.2 million in 2016, according to the ABI. Furthermore, the number of whiplash claims fell by 8 per cent in 2016/17, according to the Government’s Compensation Recovery Unit.
The £90 figure is one that the media have frequently used when talking about whiplash and injury claims for some time. Because of the very significant fall in the cost of injury claims since 2013, this £90 figure has been extremely inaccurate for quite some time.
The suggestion that premiums will rise due to an increase in tinnitus claims seems to be based on pure speculation and the articles don’t provide any evidence to back up the headlines, which seems to serve my view that it’s a sinister attempt by insurers to build on the culture of mistrust around whiplash claims and spread this misinformation into other claim areas.
Most people will not be fooled by all this self-serving tosh of course and certainly APIL, in its commitment to injured people, will continue to push back against misinformation which threatens the future of fair and full compensation for injured citizens.
The huge majority of motor insurance customers will surely want a policy that is good value (not necessarily cheap) that will deliver what they need if things go wrong. That could involve a genuine whiplash or tinnitus injury caused by someone else’s bad driving or momentary lapse of concentration. Yet this latest campaign against injured people is clearly designed to make them feel guilty and stigmatised about making a claim because others may see claimants as fraudsters or criminals. This is a shameful tactic. It’s no less shameful to suggest that, as in the case of whiplash, Government should act by restricting access for all people to expert legal representation and fixed tariffs which don’t even begin to provide full compensation.
It suits the insurers well that all injured people receive less compensation because of the fraudulent claims of the few, but that doesn’t make it right, fair or rational, especially when there’s little evidence to link such Government meddling with lower premium prices. Any intervention in the market should be focused very clearly away from punishing the huge majority of people suffering genuine injuries and towards effective regulation of the activities of unscrupulous claims companies where they serve to encourage fraudulent claims.