It’s impossible to do anything other than applaud the initiative and collaboration shown by all sides over the opening of fraud data – even for a cynic such as myself.
From next month, claimant firms will be able to access insurers’ records to check if their latest client has been a particularly prolific litigant.
Some claimants, such as taxi drivers, will naturally have a higher number of claims on their record. But others plainly have no excuse, and it would be a brave firm that takes on a case where the claimant has had a more-than-coincidental history of multiple crashes and injuries.
It is still not entirely clear what information solicitors will be able to access: the press release is a little sketchy on details and does not, for example, explain whether the data will simply include numbers of claims from the past, or whether insurers will volunteer information on whether they have proved – or even been suspicious of – fraud.
Make no mistake: this was no easy process. I’ve heard both sides of the claimant-insurer divide in recent years say publicly they support transparency but admit in private it was unlikely to happen.
One of the major stumbling blocks appears to have been whether insurers would be willing to give up data for free, so the relatively modest £110 annual registration fee (allowing unlimited searches) is to be welcomed.
What should also be welcomed is that this should change the landscape that has been such a feature of this industry for so long.
Claimant firms have long argued they are hamstrung in picking out a fraudster as they simply have to take new clients on face value. That excuse will hold no more.
Furthermore, with the possibility of losing the case altogether if fundamental dishonesty is proved, claimant firms will need to be rigorous both in their background checks and their questioning of clients.
But for insurers this has to be the moment when they tone down the rhetoric and simply get on with defending dodgy claims, rather than infecting the public psyche with the notion most claimants are on the take.
There is not, and has never been, a compensation culture, but insurers now have a lower-cost, more tightly controlled claims system where claimant lawyers have severed any financial link to medical agencies diagnosing their whiplash cases.
Now insurers have to trust claimant lawyers to carry out the necessary checks on clients, and assume that every claim coming in is genuine. The acrimony and suspicion has to stop now.