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Pass notes No 3,125: whiplash

An apparent ‘epidemic’ of neck injuries has forced the prime minister to confront the insurance industry

Age: As old as the car crash you’re filing a claim for.

Appearance: Cricked. Very cricked indeed.

It doesn’t hurt that much. I can tell it’s causing you a considerable amount of pain.

Seriously, it’s not. What about … now?

Stop hitting my neck. It’s for your own good.

Why? Claiming for whiplash is an easy way of making a quick buck.

But the guy barely grazed my bumper. No matter. Dodgy whiplash claims are now very much the done thing.

How so? UK drivers made 554,000 whiplash claims last year – double the 2006 rate.

What a pain in the neck! Exactly. That’s 1,500 pains in the neck a day. As David Cameron said on Tuesday, Britain is now “the whiplash capital of Europe”.

How did we get this impressive gong? Because of the knavish way our claims business works.

Explain. Basically, claims lawyers working on a no-win-no-fee basis need all the work they can get.

Which means what? Which means that these lawyers pay claims management firms lots of cash for referring lots of people who have been involved in an accident, however minor.

Which, in turn, means what? That claims management firms are encouraging people who don’t really deserve compensation to apply for it.

Really? According to one claims worker, companies give employees a £100 bonus if they sign up enough personal injury claimants – regardless of the truth of their claim.

But isn’t it about time insurance companies started paying out for something? Not if it raises insurance premiums for the rest of us.

And does it? Yes. It’s estimated that false whiplash claims add an average of £90 to our annual car insurance bills.

And what’s Cameron doing about it, apart from inventing silly catchphrases? He is talking to some insurance companies.

Right. Anything else? Well, he might act on some of their suggestions.

Which are? They want impartial experts to assess all whiplash claims.

And? They think you should only claim for crashes at speeds higher than 6mph.

Do say: “No, my neck is not in any pain whatsoever.”

Don’t say: “But I do have a MASSIVE paper cut!” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds