Charlie Weston: 'Time to crack down on those behind epidemic of 'spurious' whiplash compensation claims'
Just how long will it take before those in authority in this country realise that ordinary, honest citizens have lost patience with the whiplash epidemic? There are few things more infuriating than knowing that many of the claims are a try-on, yet the claimsters get money anyway.
Recently released figures from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) show that the average award for a whiplash claim was just short of €20,000.
The awards cover amounts paid out for the pain and suffering resulting from road traffic accidents, with a much smaller proportion of the total award made up of special damages, which covers medical costs and loss of earnings.
It comes after the Government-appointed Personal Injuries Commission found that the average amount paid out in this country for whiplash is almost five times higher than for similar injuries in England and Wales.
Some 70pc of all motor claims assessed for the first half of the year were related to whiplash, according to the PIAB assessment for the first six months of the year.
PIAB was set up as the independent State body that assesses injury compensation, and it generally does not pay legal fees.
But are the whiplash payouts justified?
The Irish College of General Practitioners told the Personal Injuries Commission earlier this year that most compensated claims for whiplash are "frankly spurious".
And 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 multibillion-euro gravy train that produces a good living for the medical profession and for solicitors and barristers, and of course the victims.
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. Just two reported neck pain that lasted more than three months. In just one case the pain lasted more than a year. This shows that the prevalence and generosity of whiplash payouts is open to question.
Former president of the High Court, and chairman of the Personal Injuries Commission Nicholas Kearns said recently there is a high risk of abuse because the risk of prosecution for fraudulent claims is "virtually zero".
It is clear questionable soft-tissue claims have become an industry, with the gravy train benefiting large numbers of lawyers, medical practitioners, and claimants.
The Government needs to realise that proper reform of the system cannot wait any longer.
Sunday Indo Business