By Charlie Weston
Eoghan Murphy Photo: Tom Burke
The Government is looking at setting up a new database of fraudulent personal injury claims, a sort of swindlers’ list.
This would record all those who have made claims which have raised suspicions. It would be shared between the insurance industry and gardaí, while solicitors representing clients would have access to it.
But experts warned that this could run into legal problems, as fraud is often suspected but successful prosecutions are rare.
The fraud database is one of the key recommendations of a Government working group set up to tackle the spiralling cost of motor insurance.
Names on the database would be a red flag signal that someone was making a false or exaggerated claim.
It would become immediately obvious from consulting this resource which drivers were making repeat claims, making it easier to tackle fraud rings.
Such a secure database would be likely to be operated by a state body, such as the Injuries Board.
But there are fears that if there was incorrect information about individuals on the database it could be defamatory if the list became public.
The move is part of a bid to tackle false and exaggerated claims which insurers insist have increased in the last few years, despite falls in road accidents and fatalities.
Fraudsters tend to favour whiplash claims, which make up eight out of 10 of all personal injuries.
Told about the recommendations, president of the Law Society Stuart Gilhooly said allowing insurers to determine what may or may not be fraudulent is “to place them in a position of being judges in their own cause with a right to baselessly destroy the good name of entirely innocent individuals”.
The inter-departmental group looking at insurance costs is also set to recommend a claims register is put in place, with an independent State body such as the Central Statistics Office likely to be given this task.
Government sources claim insurers are reluctant to share claims information, as insurers insist that data protection legislation limits their ability to share claims records.
It is understood the insurance working group recommends that UK standards for data sharing be adopted here.
Also urged in the report is the use of vehicle number plate recognition. This would identify fraudulent and uninsured drivers. These drivers are thought to add €100 to the cost of an average premium.
However, plans to move to a system of paying for the care of someone with a minor injury, such as whiplash, instead of paying a cash compensation amount, has run to the ground. Similar “care, not cash” plans have also floundered in the UK.
But the working group does recommend that a personal injuries commission be set up to benchmark injury pay-outs here against those in other countries.
The commission will examine possibility of judges in court cases having a panel of experts to refer to when someone makes an injury claim, rather than the prosecution and defence sides providing their own conflicting medical advice.
Insurers will also be told they will have to accept the driver history of people who have a licence from another country.
Junior Finance Minister Eoghan Murphy, who is set to outline details of the working group report next month, had no comment on its contents.
Mr Murphy would only say there will be a range of actions recommended that are expected to bring about lower motor premiums.