Whiplash Claims in the UK

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What, if anything, should the Government do about whiplash claims in this country? The need for our government to take action in regards to whiplash claims would depend on whether there is a problem in the first place. The problem in this respect can take on many forms, namely with either procedure, access to justice, other methods of resolving dispute (ADR[1]), policy, legislation, social dynamics and/or economical climate of the whole country. It is therefore vital to identify the problem and where it stems from, before searching for appropriate solutions.

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For the purposes of this essay I will be focusing on the past policy changes in regards to personal injury, such as the introduction of legal aid system and the Legal Aid Board, Lord Woolf’s review of the Civil Procedure Rules and Access to Justice Report[2] and Lord Jackson Reforms. I will aim to demonstrate that there are considerable claims in regards to “compensation culture”[3] and “whiplash epidemic,”[4] but those assertions are largely unfounded and seem to serve as an excuse for political and economical goals. Nonetheless, the current changes are both reactive and proactive, and can be seen as necessary in our current economical climate. The problem in this case is subjective, everyone involved would take a different view depending which interests they represent and the end goal they are trying to achieve. It is difficult to determine whether there has been a major increase in RTA over the years as unfortunately there is no reliable, year by year, statistical data to prove the case either way.[5] Nonetheless, when it comes to whiplash injury, Jack Straw quoted that it is as high as 80% of all the RTAs[6] leading to Britain being branded the “whiplash capital of Europe.”[7] Lord Jackson’s review of PI claims found that claimants had too many benefits, making smaller claims, namely whiplash claims, an easy target for fraudsters. Unsurprisingly ABI[8] was strongly in support of the reforms that followed and APIL[9] were strongly against. What is plainly evident is that the two sides reflect the interests of their industries. Fault based liability seems to be turning into cost based liability. Lord Dyson suggests that claimants have “lost all sense of personal responsibility”[10] blaming the media for creating a false belief that litigation is a quick financial boost rather than a genuine solution to a problem “[t]he compensation culture is a myth; but the cost of this belief is very real.”[11] Nonetheless, Dyson diverts the blame from the system “compensation culture is not about what goes on in court, but rather about what happens outside the court room”[12] and rejecting claims that UK has developed the US style litigation culture.[13] Some of the biggest changes to affect whiplash claims have been made first through the Lord Woolf’s review which focused on the disproportion caused by the legal aid system and just recently by Jackson Reforms,

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