Birmingham named whiplash capital of UK: why?

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motorway BirminghamRui Vieira/PA Wire

A study has named Birmingham's B8 postcode as the whiplash capital of the UK. In fact, the six postcodes where drivers are most likely to make a claim for whiplash on their insurance are based in England's second city.

So do they breed particularly weak necks in the Midlands, or is there something much more alarming going on?


Hotspots

The study, by the Institute of Actuaries, listed B8, B12, B10, B9, B6 and B19, as the six postcodes where drivers were most likely to make a claim. They were followed by Manchester's M13 and M12, and Bradford's BD3 and BD8.

In fact, claims were clustered around certain key areas. Birmingham made up 11 of the top 20 postcodes, with Manchester, Liverpool, Bradford and North West London completing the top 20.


Meanwhile the areas with the lowest number of claims were KW16, KW 17 and KW15 in Kirkwall in Scotland, IV26 in Inverness and ZE2 in Shetland.

Why?

Of course, this isn't pure chance, and it isn't because these cities breed bad drivers or poor necks. It's because they have a huge concentration of claims management firms.

The Institute found a correlation between those areas making the most claims, and those with the most firms prompting them to do so. It said that in particular there were many firms concentrated around the claims hot spots in the North West of England.

Trends

It also found that despite the fact that the number of road accidents and injuries was falling - the police say they are down 20% in the five years to 2011 - the number of claims were rising - up 40% in the same period. The rise cost insurers £400 million in the last year alone.

David Brown, chairman of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries UK third party motor and PPO claims working parties, says: "All of the updated data that we have collated supports the conclusion that claims management companies have had a marked effect on the number of small injury, whiplash like, claims."

"This increase in claims has cost the insurance industry what we estimate to be £400m, but despite this the average cost of a UK motor insurance policy is decreasing. This is good news for the consumer, but it does raise the question of how sustainable this is for insurers."

What next?

The positive news is that the government is alive to the trend, and has pledged to clamp down on this compensation culture. It is set to outlaw the practice of insurance companies selling details of accidents on to these claims companies. This should mean fewer cold calls, fewer claims, and less risk of hikes in our insurance premiums to pay for this ridiculous whiplash industry.

Many insurers are also joining the call for an end to this claims culture. Sarah Vaughan, motor director at AXA insurance, said: "We are determined to put a stop to the totally unnecessary levels of compensation payments being made for whiplash in the UK. We have already made a first step towards doing this through campaigning for and securing the banning of referral fees. But we believe that compensation is still far too easy to come by."

Car brands with the highest accident rate

Car brands with the highest accident rate

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