Whiplash – “a profitable invention of the human imagination”?

19 Sep 2011

Britain’s “Compensation Culture” is a hotly debated and topical subject. Jack Straw went to town on the subject in the Commons last week when he bemoaned “the extraordinary increase in the number and value of claims for personal injuries” with over 1200 claims for whiplash being made every day in the UK.

Over 80% of all personal injury claims are now for whiplash, however many a Claimant Personal Injury lawyer will no doubt avow that Mr Straw went too far in describing the condition as “not so much an injury more a profitable invention of the human imagination”. In a brutal attack on industry he went on to state that whiplash is “undiagnosable except by third rate doctors in the pay of the claims management companies and the personal injury lawyers”.

The UK faces significantly more claims for whiplash than other jurisdictions, with other countries limiting claims to circumstances where there is a “real injury”. Mr Straw calls for the requirement of “clear objective evidence” that an injury has occurred, and is at pains to add that no-one who has suffered a genuine injury will be disadvantaged in these circumstances.

Fresh in the wake of Mr Straw’s criticism, leading clinicians in the field of whiplash are making a timely call for a new consensus in tackling the whiplash culture in the UK at a conference in November. Their aim is to produce a position statement and recommendations for three main areas: diagnosis, the claim process and treatment and rehabilitation, a statement which they believe the government and insurance industry should adopt. Contributions will be made by the Government, legal (Claimant and Defendant) and insurance sector to give a balanced view of the problem and ideas to resolve them.

According to ABI statistics, UK insurers currently pay out nearly £2 billion a year on whiplash which has led to higher insurance premiums for us all. The ABI also acknowledge that whiplash is difficult to diagnose and almost impossible to disprove. The whiplash clinicians have their work cut out.