Sunday, May 20, 2007

Whiplash compensation - a modern phenomenom

People often sneer when you mention youre in the personal injury game. Its because we lawyers who dabble in the darker arts, are perceived to be the ones feeding the compensation culture in the UK.

Now the sensible voices in the industry (ie APIL) will tell you that there is no compensation culture and that the numbers of claims are declining year on year.

Well I cant speak for the statistics because I couldnt give a toss about figures churned up in some half baked survey - I go on my own instinct and I can tell you now that there definitely IS a compensation culture and I'll explain why.

A mild acquaintance of mine rang me the other day and said he and the wife had suffered a minor bump in the car after he lost control and hit a bollard. His wife was shocked and shaken but nothing too major. His first question to me was - "how much compo would she get for a whippy claim?" He'd lost his bonus and so thought a whiplash claim might be the easy way to recoup the loss. The fact that his wife wasnt injured (much) and didnt seek medical attention - actually held no sway. "Everyone does it" he told me.

Well maybe they do but I cannot take on a case that is dubious from day one and has limited damages potential. It was too risky.

Ive had plenty conversations along these lines over the years. A bump in the car that wasnt your fault nowadays means compensation - one way or another.

Consider the way things used to be:

  • In the 70's and early 80s - you had a bump - the car was the only thing that was discussed
  • This included the insurers who were not too worried about the policyholder
  • You completed your own paper claim form - there was no scripted helpline discussion
  • You were not asked any questions about injuries or the wellbeing of the vehicle occupants
  • You simply put down what happened and stated the vehicle repair costs
  • Occasionally you would see the odd injury appear - usually though they would be the more serious injuries
  • If anyone turned round and said they wanted to claim for whiplash - you nearly fell off your chair and immediately slated them for winging it and being a fraud.
  • You offered a silly figure in compensation - most claimants werent represented because the system did not support this (no LEI etc) and the last thing anyone wanted to do was go into a high street firm and deal with a toffee nosed solicitor with his head lodged firmly up his own ass
  • Most "injured" parties grinned and bared their brief period of pain. It was too much hassle to do anything else.

This was the way things used to be and do you know how I know? Because I used to work on the insurer side of the fence. Like most of the best lawyers around in the personal injury sector - that is where I started my career.

Now we have this situation:

  • You have a bump - the first thing you do if there is any sniff of an injury - is visit the local A&E.
  • The car takes second place
  • You no longer need to gather repair estimates if you are covered comp so you ring your insurer to report the matter and get the ball rolling. You will also ring them if you have limited cover such as third party F&T.
  • Now here's where things are VERY different. The insurer helpline now has a dedicated team dealing with recent accidents (new claims).
  • This team "guide" you through the reporting of the accident and one of the BIG questions will be "were you or any vehicle occupants injured?" If you answer affirmatively - and you will be prodded and poked to do so - then you will immediately have access to legal representation.
  • Now by the end of the first week you might be feeling much better - you had a little niggle in the neck soon after the event but its virtually gone now. But wait - youve already started an injury claim because you said YES to the question. Sod it, theres no point in bringing the compo machine to a halt. Its costing you nothing so why not go ahead.
  • So the claim proceeds, you get the injury compensation in 6-8 months and everyones happy.
  • Oh and the vehicle also gets repaired - mustnt forget the vehicle now must we.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the claimant then tells a pal who tells another pal and before long there is a large group of people who all know its a piece of piss to claim for whiplash injuries. They'll probably do the same if they get chance - its now become the 'done thing' in their eyes

So injuries that once upon a time would never have seen the light of day (and definitely wouldnt be A&E jobs - now become £2500-5000 debts to an insurer somplace. Claims that never used to happen are now made in their hundreds of thousands each year.

The irony of all this is that the insurers who bleat about the compo culture - actually feed the machine. They also get huge kickbacks from their panel solicitors for every injury victim they refer. I guess they feel that if anyones going to get a kickback - it might as well be them. The referral fees involved amount to £millions.

So when it comes to the golden question - is there a compensation culture - the only answer you can give is a resounding YES. Of course their bleeding well is - the system has created it and will continue to feed it.

Im not knocking it. Im just stating the obvious because it wont be long before you read the next chapter in the ' is there a compensation culture?' book.

Its definitely here and its definitely staying.


Sesver said...

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includes too much useful informations. Thanks for them.

Anonymous said...
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jmw said...

Making a whiplash claim has just become even easier as most insurers are now happy to pay off claimants WITHOUT even thinking about a medical report

Previously you could make your claim only thru a lawyer and then wait years to get the payment. Now with a scheme called "Third party capture" the insurers nail the claimants before they get anywhere near a lawyer. How do they nail them? By throwing cash at them of course!!

JSTBOOK said...
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