How many whiplash injury claims are made in the UK?
Each year, around 600,000 whiplash injury claims are made in the UK – a figure that has attracted much criticism from the media and, recently, the Government. These claims tend to centre around large cities, including Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and East London. The media have made a story from the statistics, which indicate that while, in 2011, claimable road accidents fell by 11%, whiplash claims rose by 18%. Assumptions have been made that these ‘hotspots’ of high claim rates are linked to an increased awareness of the ability to claim and a claims culture emerging, but the likely explanation seems much more obvious when you look closely at the common causes of whiplash.
How do whiplash injuries occur?
Whiplash injuries can occur in many circumstances, including some hobbies and sports such as diving. But most commonly, whiplash occurs in road traffic accidents. Whiplash is a neck injury that is usually caused by a sudden and violent jolt. The injury to your neck or spine is caused because your body is subjected to a rapid acceleration and deceleration force, which is consistent with a traffic accident. The most likely type of traffic accident to cause whiplash is surprisingly a low-speed-accident, where your car is hit from behind while your vehicle is stationary.
While this sounds surprising, this is because in a low-speed-accident your vehicle is less likely to be damaged, resulting in a ‘shunt’ rather than a ‘crumple’. In other words, instead of your car absorbing the impact of the crash, through damage to the bumper or metalwork of the car, the impact is absorbed by your body. In addition, whiplash injuries can take hours or even days to emerge, giving the impression that a whiplash sufferer has walked away from a low speed accident and not reported an injury for a couple of days, leading to the incorrect assumption that it is a false or malicious claim. Whiplash is fortunately not usually a life-threatening injury, but it can lead to long term suffering, inability to work and partial disability.
The majority of people who experience accident whiplash recover very quickly, but a minority still experience symptoms months or even years after their accident.
So what is driving the increasing rate of whiplash injury claims in the UK?
Looking at the over-arching patterns in the UK at the moment – population growth centred in cities, relatively high employment levels known to have a correlation to traffic congestion – we can see that we are going to have more low-speed traffic on the roads than ever before.
Yes, claimable road accidents are falling. But the accidents that are most likely to cause whiplash are not high-speed – they are not likely to result in claimable damage to the cars involved. As our roads become more congested, particularly in cities with huge rush-hour volume issues, we should expect a rise in whiplash injury claims in the UK.
If you have suffered whiplash you can call Accident Advice Helpline on 0800 689 0500.
Date Published: 15th January 2013
Author: Emma Matthews