Scamwatch: whiplash fraud

Jess Bown
Car accident
Car accident

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we investigate the murky world of claims management and how it has encouraged the growth of fraudulent whiplash claims.

How does it work?
There is a lot of money to be made from personal injury claims. In fact, whiplash claims alone are thought to be worth an incredible £2 billion a year.

And those involved in accidents are not the only ones making money out of them.

The UK is home to a huge claims management industry, the aim of which is to persuade everyone who has been involved in an accident - and some people who have not - to make a claim against the person at fault or, in most cases, his or her insurer.

The upshot of this is a compensation culture that encourages people to make up or exaggerate personal injury claims, with some even putting other road users at risk by staging accidents in a bid to receive a payout. This type of fraud is known as "crash for cash".
How can I avoid being caught out?
It is hoped that government plans to end of the right to cash compensation for minor whiplash injuries will help to reduce the number of fraudulent claims made - and cut the cost of car insurance for everyone as a result.

These new rules are only due to come into effect in 2017, though. So if you are in an accident between now and then, it's definitely worth taking pictures using your mobile phone to show the extent of the damage.

Ascertain too who is in the other vehicle. This way you can help prevent a claim being made for injury to people who were in fact nowhere near the scene of the crash.

The best way to avoid being caught out by "crash for cash" fraudsters - who often slam the brakes on to cause a collision - is to keep your wits about you when driving, and leave plenty of space between you and the car in front.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?
Tell your insurer if you think the other party is exaggerating his or her claim. It may decide to fight the claim in the courts.

You should also always inform your insurer straight away if you think an accident you were involved in may have been staged.

To report insurance fraud of any kind, call the Insurance Fraud Bureau Cheatline on 0800 4220421.

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