What is whiplash?
Whiplash is a term used to describe injury to the neck that occurs following a sudden acceleration-deceleration force. First entering medical usage in 1928, it refers to damage of the bone structures and/or soft tissue.
The injury has received a lot of negative press in recent years as a result of “fake claims”, but it can have a significant impact on a victim’s life.
Alison Spriggs, Senior Chartered Legal Executive at Hayward Baker Personal Injury Solicitors, explained: “Whiplash can be an extremely painful injury causing severe discomfort. It is often progressive, getting worse in the hours/days following an accident. It can affect the victim’s ability to work, drive, and undertake sports and hobbies. ”
How do you make a claim?
There are several things you must do when making a claim after sustaining a whiplash injury and it begins at the scene of an accident.
Firstly, if you are involved in a collision you must call the emergency services and seek medical attention on site if necessary. Alternatively, seek medical attention as soon as possible after leaving the scene to confirm you have been injured and to ensure you have access to treatment.
Exchange details with the other party or take down the number plate if it is a hit and run incident. It is also important to obtain details of any witnesses and take photographs of damage and the location of the accident. This information will be vital for building a solid case.
When you get home or to a safe location, contact your insurance company to alert them of the incident.
To set the legal wheel in motion, you must reach out to a solicitor, who will talk you through the process of making a claim and assess your case.
What will happen next?
How a case will proceed once you have contacted a solicitor depends largely on the value of the claim and when the accident occurred.
The law stipulates that if an “accident occurred on or after April 30th 2010 and the claim in worth less than £10,000” it will be dealt with under low value personal injury claims in road traffic accidents protocol, Ms Spriggs elaborated.
“More whiplash claims fall into this process. If the victim already has a solicitor acting then the solicitor will need to lodge a Claims Notification Form via the Ministry of Justices’ (MOJ) internet portal with the relevant insurance company. This form provides the insurer with all the necessary information to investigate the claim,” she continued.
After this, insurers will have 15 working days to assess the claim and advise whether liability should be admitted. If a third party acknowledges their fault, the victim’s solicitors will proceed with obtaining medical evidence from an independent medical expert.
“Once medical evidence has been finalised, the victim’s solicitors will value the claim and submit a Settlement Pack to the other party via the MOJ internet portal, which will contain all the necessary information to enable the insurers to consider the claim and will also contain an offer of settlement,” Ms Spriggs said.
A period of negotiation will then ensue, with the hope that a settlement can be agreed upon by both parties. If this does not occur, solicitors can apply for a court hearing, which will place the power to decide the amount of compensation in the hands of a judge.
Will it be hard to secure a settlement?
As long as there is sufficient evidence, it shouldn’t be hard to win a whiplash case. However, after a rise of “fake” whiplash cases, scrutiny has increased.
“Fake whiplash claims can cause problems for genuine cases because they cause the defendant’s solicitors/insurers to become more suspicious about all claims,” Ms Spriggs stated. “This causes insurers to undertake more detailed and lengthy enquiries before they will accept fault on behalf of their insured driver.
“Until they accept fault, the insurers will not agree to fund any rehabilitation treatment, such as physiotherapy, for the genuinely injured. As a result, the recovery period is longer.”
It is not just the legal and insurance professionals that are looking to crack down on fraudulent claims either.
The Nottingham Post recently reported that Sandiacre resident Steve Gabbitas has created a Crash Catcher – a camera fitted inside vehicles to capture those that deliberately collide with others to make insurance claims.
Mr Gabbitas is now looking to work with local taxi drivers to help protect them from false claim cases.