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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Whiplash - a pain in the neck??


Cases arising from injury caused by whiplash have been around for years. If a person is involved in a motor accident where their car is struck from behind the body is thrown forwards and jerked backwards by the seat belt. So a whiplash occurs to the body causing injury – normally to the back and neck.

Over recent months these cases have become highly controversial. The champion of the anti-whiplash lobby is former Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw. At a forum earlier this year he said that whiplash is –

"not so much an injury, more a profitable invention of the human imagination - undiagnosable except by third-rate doctors in the pay of the claims management companies or personal injury lawyers".

He called for more robust medical evidence.

He is right in one sense. It isn’t an injury as such. It is the mechanism which can cause injury. It is far from an invention of the imagination. I once had a whiplash injury. It was nothing to do with a car accident. I was playing one of those fairground games where you had to hit little plastic animals as their heads popped up. I jerked with too much enthusiasm and suffered a whiplash type injury. It was agony! I could barely move my head for about a week. But the pain and discomfort lasted for months. Driving was torture especially looking over my shoulder. Now I had no claim as it was my own stupid fault. But it really hurt.

This sweeping attack on injury victims ignores how medical evidence is used these days. Any lawyer would be opening themselves to a negligence claim if they sent their clients to a medical expert who was not properly qualified. A medical expert's duty is to the court, not to the lawyer or even the client. If insurers doubt the injury they can have their own medical expert. This is the procedure in all injury cases. It has served to identify genuine injuries for many years. Our courts are well equipped to deal with exaggerated or false claims.

It is hardly in lawyers interests to take on hopeless cases where they are highly unlikely to get paid if they fail.

This whole argument seems to come from the insurance industry to try and justify massive increases in insurance premiums. It is interesting that the OFT has announced an investigation into the conduct of insurers particularly in relation to excessive car replacement costs and referral fees that they shell out to various organizations –


There will always be claims that are not genuine but they are a tiny minority. But it is unacceptable to blame victims for the rising cost of motor insurance. Do any of us expect a nice rebate cheque for our insurers if there is a big drop in claims??


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