A leading cycling charity has urged the government to think twice and consider vulnerable road users before reforming laws around personal injury claims.
Cycling UK, Britain’s national cycling charity, has teamed up with a leading solicitors firm to question proposed reforms to the law around ‘whiplash’ insurance claims amid suggestions that vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians could lose access to justice.
Fletchers Solicitors, specialists in motorcycle accident claims, and Cycling UK have joined forces to stand up for the rights of vulnerable road users, following the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on reforming the ‘whiplash’ claims process.
The Government’s "blanket approach" fails to take into account that vulnerable road users are rarely, if ever, involved in the type of fraudulent claims that are being blamed for the soaring cost of car insurance.
The Association of British Insurers states that around 70,000 dishonest motor claims took place in 2015, however, analysis from Fletchers’ own data shows that less than 0.0002 per cent of motorcycle claims have any finding of dishonesty.
Experts also argue that the proposals do not take into account the more complex nature of the type of accidents involving vulnerable road users. Not only are injuries more complex because they do not have the added protection of a vehicle, the question of who is to blame is twice as likely to be disputed in motorcycle cases compared to the average motor claim, according to Fletchers Solicitors. This makes it harder for such matters to be dealt with fairly through the small claims court.
Car drivers aren’t the only road users
Fletchers and Cycling UK are now calling for the Government to rethink its proposals and draw a clear distinction between claims from different types of road users, to defend the rights of bikers, cyclists and pedestrians who are clearly not part of the perceived problem.
Ed Fletcher, CEO of Fletchers Solicitors, says: “The Government’s latest plans to crack down on fraudulent whiplash claims threaten to seriously harm the rights of vulnerable road users.
“While I’m sure we can all agree on the need to clamp down on fraudulent claims, the Government also needs to recognise that its current proposals will put vulnerable road users at a substantial disadvantage.
“At the moment, all sides seem to be focusing on the effect the reforms will have on car drivers, which is understandable given that the majority of road traffic claims come from this group. Yet it’s very worrying to see that little consideration is being given to the impact on other road users, such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.”
‘Pay up, or abandon the claim’
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s senior road safety officer, said: “The government keeps repeating that these reforms are designed to tackle fraudulent and exaggerated whiplash claims. Dressing these proposals up as whiplash reforms, when the impact extends far beyond whiplash claims, is inaccurate, lacks transparency, and demeans the pain and suffering of many innocent victims of crashes on our roads.
“Whiplash claims by vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, are a real rarity. That’s because cyclists incur more extreme physical impact injuries like fractured collarbones and wrists when they hit metal or tarmac.
“Given that seventy percent of cyclists’ personal injury claims are for less than £5,000, those people will be left with little choice if the small claims limit increases: either pay their lawyer with no chance of costs recovery so in real terms they end up under compensated, or choose to litigate the case themselves, or just abandon the claim altogether.
“The victims of road crashes are the real victims. The government should think again about reforms that will cheat the most vulnerable road users out of compensation for their injuries, under the pretence that this is all do with whiplash. The government should put the needs of victims before the needs of insurers."
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