Jack straw is on the warpath, after no-win no-fee ambulance chasing lawyers, who are apparently buying lists of collision victims from insure, recovery firms and even the police.
There are two aspects to this. If the victims are being encouraged to exaggerate their claims or claim for injuries that don't exist, that's fraud. If there's commissions being paid, it needs to be transparent.
However, the motoring lobby have for years managed to externalise the true cost of road collisions. So it's long overdue that victims are increasingly getting realistic compensation for their physical and injuries, mental anguish, time and ongoing losses.
Many people get knocked off their bikes, and that's enough to put them off cycling for good. If you're the victim of such a collision, the fact that you can no longer cycle will mean you'll be paying tube and bus fares for the rest of your life, and maybe paying gym membership to replace the free exercise you were getting. If you sustain serious injuries, your ability to do your job, or any job, may be lost. Yet in the UK we have no strict liability law. That means that in the absence of witnesses it's very difficult to prove you didn't swerve into the path of a car, or jump a red light, and without such evidence making a claim may be impossible. The result is that you and the good old taxpayer end up footing the bill for someone else's bad driving. And even if you do have a claim, it's still the taxpayer, rather than the errant driver, who pays for any NHS hospital treatment. It is wrong that the law assumes that all road users are equally liable, even though some bring far greater danger to the roads than others, and those same road users are far better protected from the risks that they create.
Then there are the societal costs. Road danger takes away the freedom of choice from people who'd rather not use their cars all the time. Adults are afraid to cycle. Kids aren't trusted to walk or cycle on their own, and are ferried around in cotton-wool lined SUVs. The resulting sedentary national lifestyle has an increased incidence of a wide range of associated diseases, from obesity and arthritis through to diabetes and cancer, keeping the NHS busy, and it's all paid for by - guess who - the good old hardworking taxpayer.
The fact is, if car insurance premiums actually paid for all the consequences of the harm that road collisions cause, both at an individual and a societal level, they'd be a lot higher than they are. If the over-marketing of junk food at kids was treated with the same zeal as the over-marketing of personal injury services to adults, we might be paying less tax to fund the NHS.