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Access to justice for ‘minor’ whiplash claims is disappearing

In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement 2015, he announced the end of the right to compensation for ‘minor’ whiplash claims. According to the government, this has been decided to reduce the costs to insurers who pay out for fraudulent and false claims.

The Association of British Insurers reported in 2012, that 7% of all motor insurance claims are fraudulent. When the ABI went further with their analysis and separated proven fraud from suspected fraud, proven fraud accounted for only 0.25% of all motor claims.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is usually caused when you are hit by some else’s vehicle and the severe or sudden jerk to the head/body causes injury. The symptoms usually take a few days to develop and can be very painful and debilitating. At this stage, we do not know how a ‘minor’ whiplash claim will be defined. The judicial guidelines confirm a minor neck or back injury can last from 3 months up to 5 years with a complete recovery. Under the new regime, you will no longer be able to make a claim for a minor whiplash injury.

The Ministry Of Justice justifies its reform on the basis that the “overall costs [of litigating these claims] far outweigh the value to genuine claimants of relatively small amounts of compensation”.

However, by removing an innocent person’s right to damages for pain and suffering shows a fundamental disregard for the majority of honest people who are injured by a negligent driver.

The purpose of insurance is to protect innocent parties and compensate them accordingly. By removing the right to claim for minor whiplash injuries, the platform for bringing negligent drivers to account will be lost and injured claimants will be prevented from seeking the full access to justice they are entitled to. It seems incomprehensible that those who suffer an injury, as a result of a negligent driver, will no longer have a remedy in which to claim compensation, all so the insurers can save money.

Although claimants will lose their right to compensation for minor whiplash claims, some will be able to claim for loss of earnings and/or medical treatment.

Personal Impact of whiplash

I have a large number of vulnerable clients who are more susceptible to minor whiplash injuries. They are not known offenders of fraud. These include the elderly, those with pre-existing injuries and children. This category of people will not benefit from the above as the vast number are retired, or unemployed. Therefore the opportunity to be able to claim for financial losses is irrelevant and completely undermines people’s access to justice and recompense.

Reduction in premiums v our personal safety

Overall, it is clear that people would welcome a reduction in their premiums, but at what cost and how likely is it that customers will benefit from the savings made? It certainly would not be welcomed at the cost of giving up your right to bring a whiplash claim, or the rights of your children and elderly relatives. If the power companies model is anything to go by, it is exceptionally unlikely the savings will be passed onto customers, but by the time the government realise this, access to justice for people who have suffered a legitimate, minor whiplash injury caused by someone else’s negligence will have disappeared.