Motor insurers need to challenge the growth of non-tariff injuries (NTIs) among whiplash claimants in court to ensure they do not become the norm, a leading defendant solicitor has argued.
Graeme Mulvoy, a counter-fraud partner at HF, said the firm’s statistics backed up claims that ‘wristlash’, ‘hiplash’ and other non-whiplash injuries have emerged in large numbers since the launch of the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal in May 2021.
So-called mixed claims combine both whiplash injuries covered by the OIC tariff and other injuries that are not, and represent 68% of the cases that go through the portal, up from 61% in its early stages.
How they are valued will be considered next year by the Supreme Court in the Rabot case.
At September’s PI Futures conference, Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumers Support Organisations, argued that insurer assertions that the number of mixed injury cases has risen dramatically over the past two years were not borne out by the evidence from medical reporting agencies.
But Mr Mulvoy said HF’s own data showed that, up to the end of 2020, around 20-30% of claims included claims for NTIs on top of whiplash, but the figure has increased to 67% since the OIC went live.
He rejected the common argument of claimant solicitors that, previously, they would focus on the whiplash injury as it would often be the biggest element of a claim.
“Claimants and their solicitors would naturally claim for everything that was injured,” he said, pointing out that the value of an NTI has not decreased. “It seems unusual that claimants wouldn’t want to claim for something if it was injured.”
He added: “It’s extremely surprising that a nation of weak necks has turned into a nation of weak ankles, knees and toes.”
Mr Mulvoy said he was not accusing claimant solicitors of knowingly running exaggerated claims “as it could be driven by claimants who are going through the same cost of living crisis as everyone else”.
So-called claims layering was more likely to be down to medical experts or treatment providers than solicitors, he added.
Suspicious cases were starting to reach court “and several of them have been dropped”, with some insurers challenging them “on an aggressive basis”.
Mr Mulvoy said that “not turning NTIs into the norm is the biggest things insurers can do at this stage” by taking on those they consider suspicious – compensators needed to avoid reaching a stage where judges accepted these injuries “without questions and insurers are just paying them out”.
He added: “It needs to reach a stable level as opposed to double what it previously was.”
Mr Mulvoy said HF’s view was that the impact of Rabot would be “fractional” as the area being argued over “is only a small part of what the overall claim will be worth”.