The Trades Union Congress, or TUC, has said that the government is guilty of brainwashing the country into believing that there is a compensation culture and attempting to vilify those that have a legitimate cause to claim compensation for their workplace injuries. The TUC has said that the government, backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, is making this move in order to be able to reduce or remove the health and safety laws that are currently in place to protect workers.
The whole personal injury process has come under extensive changes in recent months as the government has attempts to reduce the amount of funding it receives while similarly reducing the amount of bureaucracy and red tape that is met by employers. These reforms have already been criticised by many organisations, individuals, and even the government’s own lawyers. This isn’t the only area in which the government shakeup is proving unsuccessful either.
The Health and Safety Executive, the HSE, has also released plans to change health and safety laws. These changes would mean that fewer near misses would have to be reported while there would be considerably fewer illnesses and injuries listed for companies that do need to submit a report. The HSE believes that this will cut the cost to businesses by millions of pounds a year but some of the proposed changes have been hit by criticism. The proposals are set to come into force in October 2013 but do not yet have parliamentary approval, which would be required.
Hazards, with the backing of the TUC, conducted a study and published a report on the success rate of work related injury claimants. The figures show that the success rate of such claims has plummeted 60% in the past decade.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said that “the government is trying to brainwash people into thinking the UK has a rife compensation culture” and he went on to say that the likely outcome of the changes would mean a “much higher rate of accidents, injuries and illnesses in the future”.
The UK has earned the unfavourable title of being the whiplash capital of the world and recent figures released by the Faculty of Actuaries seems to back up this claim. Whiplash claims now total £2bn a year and reports indicate that anywhere between 50% and 90% of claims are fraudulent. The figures have catapulted Britain to the front of the queue as the most litigious country in the world, ahead of the US which is typically considered to be the worst offender in such cases.
Whiplash is a serious injury and it can have a negative impact on a person’s life for many years following an accident but it is also difficult to categorically prove or deny. Generally, it is down to medical experts to determine whether the injury is real or not and this allows for huge margins of errors, arguably confounded by the fact that many GPs are wary of making potentially costly and damaging mistakes.
Following an announcement by major insurers that fraudulent whiplash claims were adding more than £100 a year onto insurance premiums, the government launched a campaign to determine how best to reduce the number of whiplash claims. Their aim was to reduce car insurance premiums although no sign of reductions has yet been spotted. Over time, a reduction in premiums may be seen but with the changes only coming into force from 1st April the results and effects will take time to filter through.
Figures released by the Faculty of Actuaries shows that whiplash claims make up a huge proportion of personal injury claims that arise from road traffic accidents. In fact, 80% of all road traffic accident claims are whiplash related and this accounts for a total bill of £2bn, putting Britain firmly at the fore of whiplash claims throughout the world. While the US is often considered to be the most litigious country, these recent findings place the UK above the US in terms of claims.
Figures do vary but using a conservative estimate of 50% of whiplash claims as being fraudulent this means that £1bn of compensation is being paid out to people that have not really suffered the injury, or have not suffered to the extent that they claim. Other figures suggest that the figure could be as high as £1.8bn with 90% of claims being fraudulent or exaggerated. With that said, those that suffer injury or loss as a result of an accident that is not their fault do have a right to compensation and therefore have a right to make a personal injury claim.
The Association of British Insurers launched a campaign that suggested people involved in road traffic accidents be checked by healthcare professionals in order to support their claim of whiplash. The ABI wanted to force claimants to undergo these checks before being able to make a claim for their injury. Those that believe they have suffered a whiplash or other injury as a result of a car crash should ensure that they receive medical treatment as soon as possible, at least to prevent the injury from worsening.
Lobbyists and groups that want speed cameras removed will be disheartened to hear that a recent study of 551 fixed speed cameras has shown that, in areas where cameras are used, there is 27% less chance of an accident occurring. The study shows that hundreds of lives are saved every year while hundreds of personal injuries are also avoided through the installation of the cameras. However, while the overall figures were good, 21 of the sites showed an increase in injuries highlighting the necessity for accurate and considered placement.
When the coalition government came into power, speeding cameras were one of the areas where they introduced big cuts. They said, at the time of the cuts that local councils were over reliant on the use of the devices and that alternative methods should also be sought to help improve road safety. Surveys and studies, however, show that local councils continue to use their cameras and have not yet had them removed or decommissioned.
A number of campaign groups and lobby groups have been set up in the past to try and bring down cameras, or limit their use. Opponents of the yellow fixed cameras have questioned their value in reducing accident numbers as well as their actual financial worth. Despite this opposition, though, the number of cameras has increased in recent years although some counties suffer more than others. It is believed that there are more than 6,000 speed cameras, including mobile cameras, in the UK.
Speed is considered a major contributing factor in the number of deaths and serious injuries that result from road traffic accidents. Although there are figures available that show this is only the case in around 6% of serious injuries, speed is certainly a contributing factor in the number of accidents and a study undertaken by RAF Group would indicate that speed cameras have the desired effect. Not only do they slow traffic down but they minimise and reduce the number of accidents, injuries, and deaths on the roads where they are placed.
Road traffic accidents are the single biggest cause of personal injury claims and the insurance industry has claimed that these cases add billions to the total amount that drivers pay every year in their insurance premium costs. The UK has been dubbed the whiplash capital of the world because of the increasingly large number of personal injury claims that are made. The government introduced changes to the industry in April 2013 but anybody that has suffered injuries in a car accident that was not their fault is still encouraged to seek compensation and litigation for the damages they endure.
Busier roads, more powerful cars, and a greater array of distractions for drivers behind the wheel are some of the reasons that car accident numbers are on the increase. Speed is considered to be a major factor that increases the number of accidents and that increases the likelihood of those involved in accidents being seriously injured or worse. This latest study shows that while there are isolated incidents where the introduction of cameras has seen an increase in injuries, they do have a positive, overall effect.
The Road Safety Analysis (RSA) has revealed details of a study that shows rural drivers are more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident than their urban counterparts. The study looked at figures relating to road accidents between 2007 and 2011 and the results show that young rural drivers are, in fact, more than 40% more likely to be involved in an accident than young urban drivers. The study also revealed a number of other figures and statistics related to accidents on the road.
Road traffic accidents can be devastating and any driver that has been involved in such an accident, whether it was their fault or another drivers, will have experienced the horror and shock. They may also have endured painful and lasting injuries – the speed involved in car accidents means that greater force and pressure are put on the human body and this leads to a greater likelihood of serious injuries and even death. Road traffic accidents are the single biggest cause of personal injuries and the resulting PI claims increase in this country has seen the UK described as being the whiplash capital of the world.
The study, which was carried out by the Road Safety Analysis, was funded by Michelin and Rees Jeffreys Road Fund. Figures from accidents that took place between 2007 and 2011 were considered and the RSA looked for trends that developed, paying particular attention to the differences between urban and rural drivers. Overall, young rural drivers were 44% more likely to be involved in a road accident than urban drivers.
The difference was greatest on 60mph roads where rural drivers were 66% more likely to crash than urban drivers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, young rural adults were 89% more likely to hold a full driving licence when compared to those that lived in cities and towns. Rural drivers are also most likely to be involved in a collision while on rural roads with 58% more rural than urban drivers crashing while driving on rural roads.
When it comes to reasons for accidents, rural drivers are 16% more likely to provide a positive breath test while 52% more will be involved in an accident while on a bend. Rural drivers, who have to drive on poorly lit and darkened streets with very little ambient and surrounding lighting, were 63% more likely to be involved in an accident while driving in the dark when compared to urban drivers, who enjoy better lit streets and ambient lighting from surrounding lights and buildings.
Road traffic accidents are a common form of personal injury and anybody that has suffered in a crash that was not their fault may have a case to claim. The figures show that young drivers should pay particular care especially when they are driving in what might be considered anything other than optimal results. Drivers should avoid drinking, take care around bends, and ensure that they pay particular attention when attempting to drive on darkened roads at night.
A group of MPs have been told by Thatcham Research that it is highly unlikely that a person would suffer from whiplash in an impact with a speed below 6mph. They also heard that up to 60% of all whiplash claims are fraudulent and suggested that the UK adopt a system similar to the one which is in use in Germany that dictates accidents at speeds up to 6mph do not result in whiplash cases. The information was heard by the Transport Committee as they look at the Government’s proposals to reduce whiplash claims.
The Ministry of Justice opened a consultation on whiplash in December 2012. A report that they released declared that the UK was the whiplash capital of the world and stated that while motor accidents had dropped by 20% the number of whiplash claims had risen by 60% between the years 2006 and 2012. The report also claimed that 90% of relevant personal injury claims were for whiplash and that insurance companies claim around £90 per year is added to every motor insurance policy as a result.
The reason for the consultation was to bring down the cost of motor insurance which has risen markedly. The press widely reported on the fact that premiums had risen dramatically and that many new and inexperienced drivers simply could not afford to take out insurance policies. However, any changes could have a significant impact on victims and on the personal injury industry as a whole as well. Solicitors, as well as motor insurers, and members of the medical professional were invited to consult.
The Association of British Insurers had only stated that around 7% of incidents were exaggerated or were fraudulent but Andrew Miller, head of research at Thatcham Research, puts the figure considerably higher. According to his research, the figure is anywhere between 10% and 60% although critics of the findings point to the considerable range in figures and state that this 10% to 60% variation brings the validity of the numbers into question.
Also discussed was the likelihood of suffering injury in low speed accidents. Mr Miller and a Dr Donal McNally stated that incidents of whiplash in accidents at speeds of 6mph or lower were highly unlikely and advised that we take on a system similar to that in Germany. In this system, it is possible to question the validity of any claims that are made in cases related to accidents that occurred at speeds of 10kmh or less.
However Dr McNally pointed to findings from Sweden whereby 60,000 black boxes were fitted to vehicles and results from accidents were studied. According to the findings of this study, around 40% of more serious injuries would have fallen into this category and would have been ignored because of the comparatively low speed of the accident. There are many factors that will determine whether injury occurs and while it is more likely that serious injury is sustained at higher speeds, this does not necessarily mean that lower speeds will not also result in injuries.
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Mike Topper is the litigation manager at Stockslegal.
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Recent consultation undertaken by the government last year will be taken into consideration by the government, along with an assessment of the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 before a decision on whiplash claims is made. Consultation was closed at the beginning of March which the government claim will help to reduce the cost of motor insurance premiums for consumers but critics claim will make it more difficult for those injured in accidents to be able to claim the compensation that they are rightfully owed.
The government opened consultation in December of last year on Reducing the Number and Costs of Whiplash Claims. The consultation paper stated the UK had become the whiplash capital of the world although some of the figures contained within the report have been contested. Respondents, including lawyers, solicitors, insurers, and medical professionals, were asked to respond by the beginning of March with their opinion and the government were set to make a decision having heard all of the necessary evidence.
The government proposed either an accreditation scheme or an independent medical panel to determine whether or not the cases merited compensation. One of the biggest problems with whiplash claims is that it can be very difficult to assess whether or not a patient has whiplash. There are no hard and fast tests that can be made in order to determine the efficacy and value of a claim and this was something that the government wanted to address.
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has only just come into force and, in a statement from Louise Ellman MP, the government wishes to wait to determine the impact of these changes before deciding how best to move forward with changes to whiplash claims. Critics worry that people that have suffered injury will not be able to gain the same level of access to legal services and compensation if the government’s changes do go through.
In April, it was widely reported that despite the government’s sound-bites regarding the apparent increasing problem with whiplash claims, they had actually dropped to the lowest figure since 2008/2009. A Freedom of Information request revealed that there had been 488,281 claims made in 2012/2013 compared to the 547,405 in 2011/2012. This figure represents the lowest it has been since 2008/2009 and means that there were around 60,000 fewer whiplash compensation claims made in the past twelve months compared to the twelve months before.
The information had been obtained by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and was presented to the House of Commons in response to the request for consultation. The government has now declared that they will wait to hear all oral evidence and to see how recent changes to the Personal Injury industry affects claimants before deciding whether or not to implement their proposed changes. A number of groups and organisations are being called to give their information and evidence to the select committee and a decision will be made.
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