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Monday 20 November 2017

Charlie Weston: High time whiplash gravy train was shunted into the sidings by courts

'Soft-necked victims, aided by lawyers and medical professionals who have very hard necks, are pumping the system for all it is worth.' Stock photo: Depositphotos
'Soft-necked victims, aided by lawyers and medical professionals who have very hard necks, are pumping the system for all it is worth.' Stock photo: Depositphotos
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Few things are more infuriating than knowing that others are scamming the system and expecting you to pay for it. The whiplash epidemic is the finest example we have of that in this country.

A leading neurosurgeon has said whiplash is a myth and written reports of it are mainly detailing non-existent injuries. Dr Charles Marks, a UCC lecturer, says the whiplash epidemic is a multi-billion euro gravy train that produces a good living for the medical profession and for solicitors and barristers, and of course the victims.

Whiplash accounts for up to 80pc of motor injury claims. Pay-outs for whiplash are three times higher in this country than in Britain and a multiple of award levels in France.

Dr Marks pointed to a study of 40 demolition derby drivers in the US. They had taken part in an average of 30 events, with an average of 52 collisions per event, he wrote in The Irish Times. Just two reported neck pain that lasted more than three months. In just one case the pain lasted more than a year.

The neurosurgeon said Irish necks appear to be the softest in Europe. Nor were insurance companies spared criticism. Insurers are too eager to pay out before medical examinations have been produced. This is seen as cheaper than facing expensive court battles.

It is clear questionable soft-tissue claims have become an industry on Whiplash Island. Soft-necked victims, aided by lawyers and medical professionals who have very hard necks, are pumping the system for all it is worth.

Insurers have reported to this journalist that they are examining around 6,000 suspicious claims. That is around 12pc of the pay-outs made by insurers every year. That may be only the tip of the iceberg.

Judges need to wise up to what is essentially a huge scam. Too often, obscene awards are handed down by judges for the most minor of injuries, when it is not clear anyone is responsible for the injury other than the claimant.

Let's hope the judges take note of the comments of Dr Marks. The cost of motor cover has gone up by 60pc in the last three years, with high compo payouts a huge factor in that.

Our learned friends need to be better educated, and what should also help them is the work to be undertaken by the Personal Injuries Commission, being headed up by former president of the High Court Nicholas Kearns.

Honest drivers are paying for the soft-neck scam. Legal and medical professionals, and their clients, need to be encouraged to get their snouts out of the trough. Better-informed judges who take a more sceptical approach to chancers coming before them is the only way that is going to happen.

Sunday Indo Business

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