At the Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) Motor Fraud Conference last week, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling launched a new taskforce to explore ‘insurance fraud’ including a range of intrusive measures including broader access to the claims history between insurers and lawyers.
The taskforce, which will be led by Law Commissioner David Hertzell, will consider the issue of insurance claims fraud and explore, according to Grayling, an apparent perception among some consumers that insurance is “fair game”.
In announcing the launch of the taskforce, Grayling repeated the ABI’s claim that fraud adds £50 to the average household’s insurance bill – although like the ABI failed to back this assertion up with any empirical data.
Access to justice restricted
Thompsons has repeatedly called on the government and the insurance industry to come clean on how it calculates its so-called fraud statistics, concerns shared by a recent Transport Select Committee report on reducing the cost of motor insurance.
Head of policy at Thompsons, Tom Jones, said: “This taskforce is nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on access to justice. No independent evidence has ever been produced to show the scale of fraud and the definitions used by the insurance industry are all over the place. This will impact on genuine claimants when the simple answer for the insurance industry, if they are really concerned about fraud, is to not pay in cases they are suspicious of.
“The insurance industry has long been seeking to create a series of crises where there is none and when the power to deal with the issue is in their hands. They may dress up their ambitions in the cloak of fraud but the bottom line is that they don’t want claims being made or to pay out in those that are. Radical restrictions on access to justice for injured people will almost certainly be recommended by this taskforce and yet it’s all based on scare stories not facts.”
Grayling’s second announcement of new measures which will legally require claimant lawyers to undertake a search of a potential client’s previous claims history to share with insurers is further cause for concern. This data will be held by the insurance industry to carry out ‘checks’ on claimants when they attempt to pursue a claim.
Tom Jones said: “The idea of insurers using a claimant’s history to decide whether or not their claim is fraudulent is astonishing and will do nothing to combat fraud. Simply because an individual has made a claim in the past does not mean that their claim is fraudulent. For example, regular cyclists may get injured through no fault of their own on more than one occasion throughout their lives.
“We also have serious concerns of how such data could be used. This is unnecessary intrusion into people’s lives that would not be accepted in most other areas of policy.”