The insurance industry has this week - once again - unfairly cast doubt on the credibility of personal injury claimants.
In an attempt to alter the way in which compensation is paid out for whiplash injuries, insurance firm Aviva pointed the finger at accident victims in stating that more than £26 of the average £358 annual premium is spent on luxuries and holidays by those who are awarded the compensation.
Aviva argues that instead of compensation being awarded as a cash sum, they should provide therapy or clinical rehab for "supposed" accident victims. By insinuating that fraudulent claiming is a widespread and organised problem, Aviva has taken the debate about personal injury away from those individuals who genuinely suffer.
The reality is that many accident victims do not feel empowered to seek the help they deserve. This is often a result of misconceptions, such as those perpetuated by Aviva, around the eligibility of an injury or whether they are worthy of compensation. Trivialising injury and, by extension, the real long-term consequences serves only to disempower those most in need of compensation.
Our recent analysis of personal injury found that over half of sufferers experienced loss of earnings and had to make significant changes to their lifestyle. Crucially, we found that far from attempting to play the system, over four in ten people (44%) who suffered a non-fault personal injury have not even made a claim for compensation. Recent research by You Gov suggests that this percentage could be as high as 75%.
It is clear that the wider debate around the validity of claims is serving to prevent people claiming. As a result, many deserving victims are not getting the support required to meet their monetary concerns or help with adjustments to their lifestyle.
Thompsons, a law firm specialising in personal injury, has added value to this argument by revealing that many of the arguments which criticise fraudulent claims are based on questionable data. Thompsons has expressed concern that wildly inflated claims made by insurers are in fact simply being used to undermine the law and damage the justice system, as well as boost their profit margins.
It is of utmost importance that we do not simply lump spurious claims together with the vast majority of genuine claims. We instead need to remember that at the heart of the issue are real people who are suffering. The more time we spend criticising the tiny minority of fraudsters, the less time we spend championing those who are in need of real access to justice.