We’ve all seen the headlines. “Whiplash claims on the rise”. “UK is whiplash capital of Europe”. “Whiplash claims fuel compensation culture”. Not exactly favourable stories. Then again, it’s easy for the press to take a subject and sensationalise it. And, with the emergence of new statistics on whiplash claims, it appears that’s what’s been happening.
40% ‘not claiming’ for whiplash
The fact is, a recent survey by APIL has found that around 40% of whiplash victims do not claim compensation for their injury. Indeed, the latest figures show that, contrary to popular belief and some of those rather colourful newspaper headlines, the number of claims for whiplash has actually gone down (from around 570,000 to around 540,00).
Perhaps even more revealing is that more of these whiplash claims were generated by insurance companies than by law firms. That evidence flies in the face of the image of unscrupulous ambulance chasers, twisting the arm of ordinary people to pursue claims without substance. As the figures show, that’s a distorted picture.
Creating a climate of fear
So, clearly, law firms and personal injury solicitors have had a bit of a rough ride in recent years – and unfairly so. Yet, again, statistically the facts point to a completely different reality. In the APIL survey it emerged that people trusted lawyers more than insurance firms when making or pursuing a personal injury claim. That’s worth emphasising; not to bash the insurance industry but to offer a more rational, sober and less hysterical reflection on the true nature of personal injury claims in the UK.
What’s more disturbing about these new statistics however, is the fact they point to the creation of a climate of fear for the victims of whiplash. Painting a picture, intentionally or otherwise, of anyone who pursues a whiplash claim being engaged in fraudulent behaviour has significant and troubling implications. In short, it could lead to people who have genuine claims being deterred from acting. And that’s a far from healthy outcome.
A clear and open debate
So, what’s the future for whiplash claims? Well, clearly, these injuries will continue to happen – we can’t simply talk them out of existence by demonising victims. What needs to happen is quite simple: a clear and open debate on the number of claimants and the nature of claims conducted by the politicians, the insurance industry and the personal injury community. The time for negative headlines is over; it’s time for truth.
Until that can happen in earnest, we would urge anyone who does think they have a valid personal injury claim resulting from whiplash to consult a reliable personal injury lawyer. It’s not just a sensible thing to do; it’s a perfectly legal thing to do. Don’t be deterred.