Whiplash targeted in car costs drive

Road traffic Image copyright PA
Image caption Independent medical panels will be set up to consider whiplash insurance claims

A package of measures aimed at bringing down motoring costs, including insurance premiums, has been announced by the government.

Ministers have pledged to crack down on the "compensation culture" on claims for whiplash injuries.

And there are plans to pilot fuel price comparison signs on major roads and freeze the cost of the MoT test.

The statutory maximum price of the MoT test for a car will be pegged at £54.85 until 2015.

Medical report

The inflated cost of fuel on major roads is among the most common complaints among drivers.

In some areas petrol and diesel can cost 10p per litre more at motorway service stations.

The government wants to install a series of price comparison signs which will show the cost of fuel at all petrol stations along any given route.

Ministers are also promising to save motorists money by tackling what they call the compensation culture.

Independent medical panels will be set up to identify exaggerated or fraudulent claims for whiplash.

Currently insurers can make an offer to claimants without a medical report.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "We are turning the tide on the compensation culture and helping hard-working people by tackling high insurance premiums and other motoring costs.

"It's not right that people who cheat the insurance system get away with it while forcing up the price for everyone else - so we are now going after whiplash fraudsters and will keep on driving premiums down."

Mr Grayling later told BBC Radio 5 live he wanted any cost reductions from clamping down on whiplash payouts to be used to lower drivers' premiums, rather than boost companies' profits.

'Shake off reputation'

Labour MP Louise Ellman, who chairs the Commons Transport Select Committee, said she welcomed the package of measures announced, particularly when it came to whiplash claims.

"The Transport Select Committee has looked at this over a long time and very recently we recommended that insurance companies shouldn't pay out for whiplash claims without a medical report and that those medical reports should come from independent medical practitioners," she said.

"So I'm very pleased that the government have now accepted one of our key recommendations."

GP Dr Rosemary Leonard told BBC Breakfast that the UK has a rate of whiplash that is "way higher" than the rest of Europe and "it is thought an awful lot of them are bogus".

"If you had a genuinely nasty shunt in your car and you went to your doctor and you said 'Well my neck's aching a bit,' and the doctor just said 'Well actually I don't believe you,' you would quite rightly be very annoyed.

"So as GPs we're in this position where we have to go along with what the patient says, because if we don't and it's a genuine case we could be sued."

Roads minister Robert Goodwill said: "The costs of owning and running a car are felt by millions of households and businesses across the nation. The government is determined to help keep those costs down."

Statistics from the AA show that motor insurance premiums are falling at the fastest rate since 1994 - 12.3% for an average comprehensive policy in the year to October.

James Dalton, Association of British Insurers head of motor and liability, said: "We have long called for more robust medical assessment of whiplash claimants.

"Setting up independent panels of accredited experts will help the UK shake off its reputation as the whiplash capital of Europe."

The moves have been welcomed by the Institute of Advanced Motorists, and motoring organisations the RAC and the AA.

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