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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