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Column: Contrived epidemic of whiplash
DO you know, Mr Straw, I very rarely see any patients wanting treatment for whiplash, a senior orthopaedic specialist told me last week, “but I see scores who want compensation for whiplash”.
What this doctor told me is confirmed by the statistics.
Whiplash accounts for 75% of all personal injury claims. It costs the British motorist £2billion a year, an extra £90 at least on every motor insurance premium.
Yet the burden on the NHS for treating “whiplash” is £8million, a tiny fraction of the NHS’s annual budget of £106billion.
In other words, the vast majority of claims for whiplash are bogus to some degree.
Bogus because the symptoms are exaggerated by the “patient”, and exaggerated again by the doctors who do the medical reports, and who have a vested interest in a high throughput of claims; or bogus altogether.
The claimant may have been in a car when there was a very low-speed rear-end prang, suffered no discernible pain; or the claimant may not have been in the car at all, and the claim is fraudulent from start to finish.
It’s thanks to people in Blackburn that there is now national action in hand to tackle this scandal.
A Bill, passed last month, will outlaw “referral fees”.
Action to cut the costs the lawyers can claim back from the insurers is also promised.
Then yesterday ministers announced two further possible changes: authorised panels of doctors, to ensure much greater rigour in assessing this condition; and claims under £5,000 to go to the Small Claims’ Courts, where legal costs are strictly controlled.
I welcome both. But to stamp out this contrived epidemic of whiplash, there has to be another fundamental change.
We’ve got to make it virtually impossible, by law, even to start a whiplash claim if the impact speed is low.
In France, whiplash claims are just 3% of the total.
If they’ve a pain in the neck they take some paracetamol and get on with their lives.
We used to.
We should do so again.
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