The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) took its fight over the demonisation of whiplash claims to Parliament yesterday, launching a report to MPs and peers that aims to “clear the way for sensible debate about the issue”.
The Whiplash Report 2012 is APIL’s attempt to assert the claimant voice in a debate that – following two insurer summits with first Prime Minister David Cameron and then cabinet ministers – has been largely dominated by defendant views.
The report included details of an independent survey of 4,000 people, which found that 1% (51 people) suffered a whiplash injury in the past year, while a further 522 people had suffered whiplash at some point in their lifetime. Of these 522, 321 said they had made a claim.
The report seeks to dispel “myths” about whiplash, such as that lawyers drive whiplash claims. Some 28% said their claims were “encouraged by insurers”, 21% by a lawyer and 11% by a claims management company – deciding to pursue the claim without encouragement was cited by 31% of people.
More than six in ten had their symptoms for at least a couple of months – and 20% for more than a year – undermining the claim that most symptoms disappear after a few days.
It also took on the oft-heard suggestion that Britons have the weakest necks in Europe, pointing out that the UK’s roads are busier than any others in Europe – increasing the possibility of low-velocity accidents – and arguing that while car design and construction, including seat belts, have reduced serious injuries, they have also led to an increase in minor injuries.
“The people who suffer these injuries are genuine,” APIL president Karl Tonks insisted. “Honest claimants are not the problem – the problem is fraud, and fraud must be tackled by all sides working together if we are going to eliminate it.”
APIL strongly attacked insurers for making compensation offers without seeing any medical evidence. Banning this is one of the measures in APIL’s 10-point plan to combat fraud, which also includes banning spam texting, preventing solicitors, insurers and claims managers from offers gifts or cash to make a claim, and claimants having to sign a statement of truth, breach of which could make the claimant liable for prosecution.