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Whiplash, fact or fiction?

22nd March 2012

Most people even with just a passing interest in personal injury claims will by now be well aware that the Government, through the offices of the Ministry of Justice, is currently considering a raft of proposed changes to the system by which those who have suffered injury in an accident, caused by someone other than themselves, seek to recover compensation.

Now, however, the Government has recently announced that it proposes to go one stage further and actually prohibit one type of personal injury claim in certain circumstances; the now much maligned whiplash injury claim.

Many doctors have sided with the insurance industry and have advised the Government that, in simple terms, there is no such thing as a whiplash and that such injuries do not exist. Indeed, I have heard an eminent consultant orthopaedic surgeon make such an assertion recently in a lecture.

There is, however, clear empirical evidence that such an injury does exist. Whiplash is an all embracing term for soft tissue damage to the neck; a sprain if you prefer, but the symptoms are only too real and genuine as testified by many motorists who have been hit from behind over the years.

This proposal appears to be a policy decision taken by the Government based on the insurance industry’s assertion that damages are out of control in road accidents and leading to higher insurance all round. It does not appear to be medically evidenced, save for some well known radical experts who, in the main, have been in the employ of insurance companies for years.

Over the years I have represented numerous people whose lives have been wrecked by such injuries and I think it is fair to say that this new initiative from the Government shows that they are fairly and squarely under the spell of the insurance industry and do not care much, if at all, for the “common man” on the receiving end of such injuries.

There is, of course, fraud in some personal injury cases, as there can be in all walks of life. However, such fraudulent cases should be tackled and dealt with strongly when uncovered but the insurance industry appear to be making things worse (perhaps deliberately) by paying off small claims quickly before medical evidence has been obtained and thus encouraging such fraud. The Ministry of Justice should tackle these cases of fraud, but they should not dismantle the system completely to achieve such an end.

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