The whiplash capital of Europe..?
Posted on Monday, January 23, 2017 by Venn Group — No comments
“Have you had an accident that wasn’t your fault?”
I always wonder how they found me, especially considering I haven’t even owned a car for the last seven years or so. I’m quite careful with how I share my personal data online, but I still get bombarded with these daily calls from claims management companies seeking to make a referral.
I’m not alone. Living in the “whiplash capital of Europe”, where over 78% of minor injuries claims after a road accident consist of a claim for whiplash, 44% of drivers receive a call or text encouraging them to claim for compensation within 24 hours of an accident. Notoriously difficult to prove, whiplash injuries can manifest days after the accident, can occur at speeds as low as five miles per hour, and can result in the sufferer experiencing painful symptoms for years.
Inevitably, a certain amount of these claims will be fraudulent and it is incredibly difficult to differentiate between a legitimate claim and a specious one. So how do we ensure that people whose lives have been negatively impacted by an accident receive an appropriate amount of compensation?
Currently the small claims track deals with personal injuries up to the value of £1000. The government is currently proposing to increase this limit up to £5000. The inevitable result of this is that injuries such as “facial scarring, a fractured rib or losing part of a finger will be considered a ‘small claim’ – the same as if someone was claiming for a faulty washing machine”.
These small claims typically do not result in solicitors’ costs being reimbursed, unlike fast track or multi track claims. So the ordinary citizen whose life has been affected by injuries from an accident will be less able to access the legal advice that they need in order to pursue a successful claim. The government is also seeking to significantly reduce, or even entirely cease, compensation for soft tissue injuries such as whiplash. Considering whiplash injuries can result in the sufferer having to stop working or even experience partial disability, the financial consequences for those unlucky enough to be affected are devastating.
There is a huge focus in the news currently towards the “compensation culture”, but as Lord Young of Graffam acknowledges in his 2014 report, ‘Common Sense, Common Safety’, it is the “perception” of the compensation culture which “creates a climate of fear and encourages organisations to attempt to eliminate all risk”. Media outlets cite falling insurance premiums as a major reason to support fixed fee compensation for soft tissue injuries, but disregard those who would be negatively affected who have a legitimate claim.
Let’s not stigmatise whiplash sufferers, or those who have had to claim for a legitimate injury caused by an accident. Instead let us focus on the perpetrators of the compensation culture: the tabloids, who encourage hysteria around personal injury claims, those who encourage illegitimate claims to be filed, those who use invasive and irresponsible marketing to target vulnerable people and those who fraudulently make a claim after having an accident. Ultimately, we need to strike a balance between a “have a go” compensation culture and ensuring that motorists receive fair and reasonable recompense for their injuries.
While I am not yet convinced that the proposed government legislation will achieve this, I would be very interested in hearing the thoughts of personal injury lawyers and those who will be directly affected by this legislation coming into effect.
If you do currently receive invasive messages from claims management companies, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers is running a ‘Can the Spam’ campaign to help hold these companies to account. You can report them at https://www.apil.org.uk/canthespam.
Katie Clarke – Venn Group