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The war against whiplash continues

Severely damaged front end of a silver carThe ongoing battle to curb Britain’s compensation culture continues, with pressure mounting on the government to tackle whiplash claims with new laws.

Around 70 per cent of motor insurance personal injury claims arise from whiplash injuries.

This figure comes from a report by the government’s Transport Select Committee, which is investigating the rising cost of car insurance.

Government figures highlight how personal injury claims have risen despite the number of motoring accident victims falling.

Between 2006 and 2011 the number of recorded accident victims fell from 258,404 to 208,648.

Yet during the same period the number of road accident-related claims has shot up, from 466,097 in 2005-06 to 790,999.

Now calls are being made for a law to tackle the growing whiplash claims culture in the UK.

“Profitable invention”

Former Home Secretary Jack Straw, MP for Blackburn, where insurance costs are among the highest in the UK, described whiplash as "not so much an injury, more a profitable invention of the human imagination".

He added that whiplash was "undiagnosable except by third-rate doctors in the pay of the claims management companies or personal injury lawyers".

In 2011, Straw exposed the extent to which insurance companies were selling on clients’ details to personal injury firms, which was to blame for rocketing motor insurance premiums.

He pushed for a ban on referral fees and has also pledged to overhaul the law on whiplash to require a stricter burden of proof.

The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) is backing this move.

A spokesman said: "We agree that the government should bring forward primary legislation to require objective evidence – both of a whiplash injury and it having a significant impact on the claimant’s life – before compensation is paid." 

Proving a whiplash injury

What this means is, insurers, legal professionals and doctors involved in a whiplash claim case, may have to prove that whiplash exists.

As it stands at the moment, insurers are inclined to settle a claim, calling it  an unprovable injury but advancing science could hold the key to new laws.

Research physiotherapist, Don Gatherer, in partnership with the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital, has developed technology that he believes can accurately test a whiplash injury.

The system is described as a 'pain detector' and it measures and sends the muscle forces it detects to a computer and enables physiotherapists to assess the patient’s true condition.

Gatherer is in talks with several insurers to see if the technology could help identify genuine claimants.

Similarly, Thatcham, the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, has designed a Whiplash Injury Toolkit (WITkit), which is now entering the development phase.

This tool will allow insurers to test the probability of neck or whiplash injury by taking the crash scenario and vehicle specific parameters into account, such as speed, make, model, head restraint and seat design.

From this they’ll be able to determine car insurance whiplash claims that are highly likely to be genuine, and those that aren’t.

Steps toward a new law

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said the government was taking "robust steps".

"We are very aware of the current concerns around the development of a 'whiplash culture' and the suggestions which have been made to make it more difficult for people to bring whiplash claims.

"We will consider the committee’s proposals very carefully in deciding the best way forward on this issue."

Lois Avery

Lois Avery

Lois joined in 2010 after working for Dyson and as a local newspaper reporter in Wiltshire. After a year writing financial journalism at, Lois won the 2011 'most promising newcomer' at the BIBA journalist of the year awards.

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