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Whiplash; Why is it such a dirty word?

10th June 2015

If you are expecting an article about a film concerning drummers, or indeed about the world of a particular dominatrix, then we are sorry to disappoint!

We remember the day when it was thought acceptable for a person with a whiplash type neck or back injury to pursue a compensation claim resulting from an accident. Clients tended to be referred by local recommendation.

The consequences of a significant whiplash type injury can be permanent and life changing. Some time ago we acted for a Royal Naval sailor whose whiplash injury was expected to fully settle, but who on our advice refused an initial settlement offer of £6,000. He was eventually discharged from the Royal Navy on medical grounds, with his case settling (about 20 years ago) for £250,000. We trivialize and misunderstand “whiplash” at our peril.

There is no question that a rogue, sometimes criminal and often unscrupulous element was able to enter a claims process once inhabited by experienced, insured and ethical solicitors. Through questionable marketing techniques and questionable associations with third parties this rogue element succeeded, for personal gain, in persuading people to make claims where no, or little, injury had been suffered.

Insurers fought back, understandably, but also sought to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. The Government and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), amiably assisted by some dreadfully inaccurate media coverage, succeeded in turning public opinion against whiplash claims and claimants. Government slashed the legal costs recoverable in such cases. Many cases are now run by low skilled “claims handlers”, working for national companies claims companies who bought law firms, and who use the names of these firms to trade under. The consequences of failing to recognise a potentially life changing injury could be significant. We recently inherited such a claim, to find the client had been “represented” by over 10 different claims handlers in just 12 months.

Pursuing a whiplash claim is, in some quarters, no longer seen as socially acceptable. It must be recognised that such claims are not only genuine, but the injuries can be debilitating and have permanent, life changing consequences. It is crucial that claimants seek out local, specialist solicitors capable of properly identifying and managing the issues resulting from such injuries.

There is no question that dishonest claims exist, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that even a significant minority of claimants are “out for the compo”.

Paul Fretwell, Personal Injury.

George Ide, Personal Injury Blog
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