If your car was rear-ended, do you think your first reaction would be to: a) Take a deep breath before getting out of the car to assess the damage; b) Take a deep breath before getting out of the car to scream at the other driver; c) Take a deep breath before getting out of the car to let as many people as possible know that you could well have a bad neck injury? Obviously, the good and proper response would be to: a) Take a deep breath before getting out of the car to assess the damage. But, leaving the angry mob who answered b) to one side, there is a significant number whose thoughts would first turn to how much they stood to gain from the prang.
Unfortunately, crying whiplash appears to have become par for the course when it comes to car insurance claims, with some motorists seeing a personal injury pay out as some sort of entitlement, rather than the compensation payment it actually is. A recent study by LV= found that just under a third (29%) of those who claimed compensation for personal injuries following a car crash admit they exaggerated their injury in order to do so, while a further 10% confessed to completely making up an injury in order to get a pay-out. And although accident rates continue to fall, the same can’t be said of personal injury claims, with insurers receiving around 1,500 claims for whiplash every day - that’s just over one every minute! To highlight exactly what insurers have to deal with, here are five of the most inventive personal injury stories as heard by the LV= claims team…
Fraudster’s Facebook fail
A woman, let’s call her Mrs Smith for the sake of originality, claimed that she and her daughter were injured when another car drove into the back of her car. Mrs Smith later posted on Facebook that she’d been in a car accident that day and, although shaken up by the incident, she was very relieved that her daughter hadn’t been in the car at the time. Unsurprisingly, when challenged with this information, she remembered that her daughter actually hadn’t been in the car at the time and changed the details of her claim. If the fraudster hadn’t hamstrung herself online then this bogus claim would have cost her insurers an extra £2,500.
The baby blagger
Shortly after giving birth, one wily woman figured out an easy way to keep her baby in designer baby grows – simply claim to have been in a car accident and sustain whiplash while her friend was driving. However, in what appears to have been an extreme case of baby brain, she didn’t realise that her claim would fall as she was actually in hospital and giving birth at the time of the accident. This claim would have cost insurers an extra £3,000.
The contrived collision
The one thing that is central to all successful insurance claims is that an accident actually took place when and where it is said to have done – but such minor details didn’t stop fraudsters who tried to claim by using photos of car damage resulting from a previous collision. Their plan hit a brick wall, however, when insurers checked the number plate against the claims database and found that one of the cars involved had been in an identical accident just a few months earlier. This led to the first ‘contrived collision’ case of its kind to be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice, where the guilty parties all received custodial sentences while the insurers saved themselves a payout of £75,000.
An expensive sick note
After having her car rear-ended, a woman who we shall refer to as Mrs Jones claimed that she was injured to such an extent that she was left severely disabled, unable to work and in need of care for up to eight hours a day. Mrs Jones was in receipt of incapacity benefits and the claim overall was valued in excess of £650,000. Her husband and daughter also signed statements to the court confirming the claimant’s allegations. However, after insurers were tipped off that Mrs Jones was not actually disabled as alleged, and that she was actually working, she was found guilty of contempt of court and given a custodial sentence.
As easy as Pi
One of the most bizarre claims for whiplash comes from Miss Roberts (no relation, it’s not even her real name) who wanted to claim back the cost of her holiday after she was unable to travel due to a whiplash injury. Her claim faltered, however, when she revealed the reason for this alleged injury as Miss Roberts claimed to have sustained whiplash after jumping back in surprise at seeing a tiger jump out of the water – while at the cinema watching Life of Pi in 3D. The 3D is good, but not that good, and safe to say her £1,000 claim was not upheld.
Counting the cost of fraudulent claims
It’s estimated that up to 60% of whiplash claims are fraudulent or, at the very least, exaggerated and, far from being the victimless crime that many think it is, fraudulent claims add around £50 to the price of each annual motor premium. The problem is so widespread that the Ministry of Justice is currently undergoing a period of consultation with a view to implementing new legislation that will reduce the burden of these costs for honest motorists. In the meantime, the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force on April 1, this year and put an end to referral fees and changed the way in which claims are handled and costs are recovered – which should help to weed out the more spurious claims and mean that car crashes are no longer seen as money-making opportunities.