Whiplash claim system must change, says Aviva

Image caption Aviva says that changing the way that claims are administered would cut premiums

The UK's biggest insurer has said that motorists' premiums could be cut by an average of £60 a year by changing the system of whiplash claims.

Aviva has called for a new process that would force victims to put their claims directly to the insurer of the driver who caused the crash.

It suggests that the system would cut out middlemen who inflate the cost of claims.

However, one legal group said such a change would leave victims vulnerable.

"Putting the injured person entirely in the hands of the guilty party's insurer would create a profound conflict of interest," said the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.

"Independent advice is key to preventing such a conflict and ensuring a fair outcome for the injured person."

Ban expected

Whiplash claims are a major factor behind the rapid rise in the price of motor cover. They account for 80% of injury claims, and most go through lawyers who have been charging sizeable fees, Aviva said.

Costs can rise even further as a result of referral fees paid by lawyers and claims management firms to breakdown firms, brokers and the insurers themselves - in exchange for providing information about accident victims.

Aviva suggested that all this accounted for £118 of a typical motor insurance premium.

The government has already given notice that it will ban referral fees and limit legal fees, but Aviva believes the cost could be cut further by putting a claim first to the "at fault" insurer.

The victims should then receive independent clinical advice and there should be a standard tariff of damages focused on care, rather than cash payments, according to Aviva.

Some 550,000 whiplash claims are made each year. Aviva estimates that up to 300,000 cases could be dealt with under its proposed system.

"Our primary concerns are that injured parties receive care and compensation as quickly as possible, and that all motorists benefit from a reduction in the excessive costs that have built up in claims over the past few years," said Dominic Clayden, claims director at Aviva.

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