The government has accepted in full the recommendations which the Insurance Fraud Taskforce made in its final report of January 2016, on which we reported in our Bulletin of 28 January 2016¹. The recommendations include stronger fining powers for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (the SRA), a lower burden of proof before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, and the need to introduce further measures to discourage ‘late’ personal injury claims.
However, the government’s actions have not been met with universal approval. One pro-claimant observer was particularly damning, describing the Insurance Fraud Taskforce as “insurance-dominated” and its report and recommendations as “entirely unsubstantiated... pro-insurance propaganda”.
Although these comments could be taken with a pinch of salt, it is interesting to note that the Law Society also published a statement2 in which it expressed its belief that the government could be doing more to tackle fraudulent claims, and could have used this opportunity to adopt additional measures aimed at the industry. In particular, the Law Society called on steps to be taken to stop the inappropriate use of pre-medical offers, which prevent the value of claims being properly assessed against medical evidence. The Law Society urged insurers to defend claims which they believe to be fraudulent, or where they believe that the claimant might be exaggerating his or her injuries, on the basis that failing to do so will simply encourage more fraudulent claims and increase the cost of insurance.
The Law Society also suggested introducing a clear definition of what constitutes a fraudulent claim. However, the Law Commissions made clear during the consultation process for the Insurance Act 2015 that they had specifically avoided defining “fraud” in that Act, and intended the common law definition to apply, so at present it seems unlikely that the Law Society will have any success in obtaining further clarification of “fraud” in this context.
Treasury minister Harriett Baldwin has confirmed that, in due course, the government will publish its proposals on how the Insurance Fraud TaskForce’s recommendations will be implemented.