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New whiplash curbs announced

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The government will set out a series of new measures in a bid to cut what they consider to be an excessive number of whiplash claims, often referring to the UK as "the whiplash capital of Europe".

The Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke and Transport secretary Justine Greening are to jointly outline plans to reform the procedure for diagnosing whiplash, with a statement to be given containing all the relevant details of this new procedure.

The government are also likely to announce an accreditation system for medical experts who assess whiplash injuries and tough regulations on out-of-court settlements to encourage insurers to challenge claims which they perceive to be fraudulent.

Mr Clarke was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying it was "scandalous" to have a claims system where it is often more economical for insurers to settle a "spurious" claim rather than to challenge it.

All in all, the government proposals are likely to be very well received by the insurance industry who have been calling for "objective" evidence to be produced to prove whiplash, in addition to a claimants own GP's diagnosis.  However, in the present system, a medico-legal expert will have undertaken training in how to identify whiplash as a condition caused by an accident, and a medico-legal expert at present is someone who is independent of any medical practitioner who has treated the claimant for their injuries, and whose first and foremost duty is to the court in order to ensure impartiality of their evidence. 

It is hard to see how any new changes to be brought in would assist in improving the quality of medical evidence for whiplash claims, from the system which is already in place where medical experts are independent and suitably trained?  We will have to wait and see what the government has up its sleeve in its imminent announcement today.

By road traffic accident expert, Rebecca Dawber