UK Whiplash RTA claims – whose statistics to believe with reforms coming?

Posted Feb 21, 2018.

With recent announcements from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) confirming the government’s intention to push ahead with further personal injury reforms – particularly for whiplash claims – that will have a serious impact on an injured individuals ability to obtain fair compensation, it is worth looking at the data that is being used to push through with these reforms.

Back in May last year, Ken Oliphant - professor of tort law at Bristol University – argued that the UK insurers assertion that the UK is the “whiplash capital of Europe” was a flimsy claim, based on unreliable data – data that has been specifically cherry picked to support “specific reform agendas”. Oliphant, who was responding in a personal capacity to a 2017 justice select committee’s call for evidence on the government’s proposed reforms, said:

“Such evidence as there is has been misleadingly and tendentiously presented by participants in the public debate about the alleged ‘compensation culture’. Actually, the same evidence makes clear that, by most measures, the UK is not the whiplash capital of the world or even of Europe”

According to the academic, the objective data actually showed that Italy had nearly 50% more whiplash claims than the UK in the period surveyed, and subsequent payments were more than double of those typically awarded in the UK. He added:

“The average cost of a whiplash claim in the UK was lower too – not just than in Italy but in more than half of the other countries for which data were supplied. On average, whiplash claims in Switzerland cost ten times as much as in the UK; in the Netherlands, almost six times as much; in Norway, more than twice as much”

The data shows that the main difference in the UK is that whiplash claims account for a higher proportion of overall bodily injury claims. Again, Italy had the highest total of bodily injury claims in total, and the overall cost of such claims in Italy, France, Spain and Germany was higher than in the UK. Oliphant said that the data the insurers have been using – based on a “flawed” 2004 CEA study – could actually be used to state that Italy or Switzerland could lay claim to being the European whiplash capital. He concluded: 

“This disregard for real evidence in turn raises the concern that reform will be driven by a desire to stop rare instances of abuse of the system, and thus to address a largely illusory or at least a more limited problem, while subordinating the interests of the majority of injured persons whose claims for compensation are entirely ‘genuine’.”