Protecting the innocent the (shared) fight against fraud
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Insurance Fraud Bureau claim there are 133,000 fraudulent claims detected each year, which is just under 5% of all claims submitted. Undetected fraud is estimated at ?2 billion per annum.The Insurance Fraud Register “goes live” in July and will contain a list of the UK’s known fraudsters which will be used to help insurers to identify fraudsters when they purchase insurance. This move has been welcomed, industry-wide, although many have quite rightly pointed out that this (in conjunction with all other initiatives) should have been put into effect years ago.Insurance fraud is as old as insurance policies themselves. It is, however, only more recently that “insurance fraud” has been grabbing the headlines. In part this is following a number of successful prosecutions brought against members of organised gangs who have carried out these “cash for crash” scams, targeting innocent victims. One should not, however, lose sight of the fact that on the insurers’ own statistics it is very much a tiny minority who pursue fraudulent claims – the vast majority of the claims are brought by innocent victims who are pursuing perfectly legitimate claims.Against this backdrop, the insurers themselves should take responsibility for ensuring that allegations of fraud or exaggeration are not made lightly – as Nick Starling of the ABI has often repeated – not every Claimant is a fraudster and should not be treated like one. Whilst, neither Mr Starling, nor his fellow members of the ABI, is a fan of “whiplash” claims – they must accept as a basic premise that “whiplash” does not equal “fraud” – the innocent claimant must be protected.Unfortunately, for many insurers dealing with “whiplash” claims, fraud seems to be their starting point for negotiation. This is wholly irresponsible. This causes needless anxiety for innocent victims, delays claims unnecessarily and (the topic of the moment) drives up the cost of the claims on both sides.The fight against fraud is a shared one and consumers, lawyers and insurers need to do all they can to help combat it; however, sensational headlines and TV “documentaries” do not help the cause and only muddy the waters further. It is vital that public awareness of this issue is raised in a balanced way and practical advice given. The Insurance Fraud Bureau has produced an article which all motorists would benefit from reading:http://www.insurancefraudbureau.org/files/misc_pdfs/consumer_advice_-_crash_for_cash_scams.pdfTom Ranson of Ashtons Legal’s injury services team comments: “We all have to continue to be vigilant and fraud should be stamped out wherever it is found. As responsible personal injury lawyers, we at Ashtons Legal, pride ourselves on maintaining excellent standards, not only in relation to our client care but also in relation to our role within the claim process.”
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