Sensationalist claims have again been made in the national media that the UK is the “whiplash capital of Europe”. This misleading headline is generated by statistics produced by the insurer Aviva that 80% of car insurance claims are for whiplash compared to only 8% in France. This is blamed on the UK “compensation culture”.
Strangely, a very similar story was published about 18 months ago using the same figures and terminology as in an Aviva press release from 2015, the 80% figure for whiplash claims is taken from Aviva’s statistics for the road traffic claims they handled in 2014.
Looking into this further however the statistics they have provided do not seem to stack up.
Aviva’s report states 80% of claims “include whiplash”, which no doubt covers claims which have an element of neck pain (whiplash) but also other, potentially, more serious injuries. Aviva also don’t tell you that they have used France as a comparator due to their strict rules and short time limits around claiming, which has driven down the number of whiplash claims to artificially low levels. Even then, the Association of British Insurers has stated that the whiplash rate in France is about 30%, rather than 8%.
The Government body, the Compensation Recovery Unit, which collects injury claims data, ironically from insurers, states that 43.5% of all UK road traffic claims are for whiplash, with the average across Europe in fact around 39%, roughly the same. This is far closer than the 80% vs 8% claim peddled by Aviva.
The reason, in our view, that sensationalist stories are published on the issue of whiplash, aided by the input of insurers, is to attempt to create a feeling of guilt amongst the general public that these personal injury claims should not be pursued as that would contribute to a “compensation culture”. This may then lead to less claims being pursued and, in turn, fewer compensation pay-outs from insurers.
We think justice should be served however and an innocent victim suffering a personal injury should not have to feel pressured by the press or their peers (who may be influenced by the wider media) against righting the wrong they have suffered.
Soft tissue injuries to the neck and cervical spine (which is what whiplash is) can be fairly minor or very painful. It can last a few days or in rare cases, a lifetime. It ranges from an inconvenience to stopping someone working and creating financial difficulties within the family.
Injured people do not want to be injured and the compensation does not make the injury worthwhile. In a lot of cases however it can ensure financial stability is maintained.
If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault but are debating whether to pursue this on the basis of cultural arguments made on behalf of insurers in the media, we suggest you take such stories with a pinch of salt and concentrate instead on the impact your injury has had. We are here to fight your corner and achieve justice on your behalf.