12 November, 2012
Filed UnderLegal Costs
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has recently published a report into whiplash injuries, subtitled “Myth or Fact?”, including details of an independent survey of 4,000 people. APIL advise “Some may find the answers surprising”.
The results of the survey show “33 per cent of people reported their symptoms accurately; 47 per cent of people said they made their symptoms seem better than they were, to the person making the diagnosis”.
Although APIL’s report does not spell this out, presumably the balance of 20 per cent either exaggerated their symptoms or claimed to have suffered an injury when they had not.
This survey was apparently conducted via an "online omnibus panel". I assume this is some kind of an online questionnaire. What is surprising is not the fact that 20% of those surveyed appear to have deliberately exaggerated their symptoms but that 20% were prepared to admit to having done so. It hardly takes a leap of imagination to suppose that the true portion is much higher.
The survey discovered that “90 per cent of people think claiming for an injury when you haven’t been injured is fraudulent”. What planet does the other 10% live on? And “89 per cent of people think deliberately crashing your car in order to be able to make a claim for personal injury is fraudulent”. It’s not so much the issue of whether 11% appear to believe that it is not problematic to deliberately crash their car to make a personal injury claim, but the fact they don't even recognise this as being fraudulent. One of APIL’s proposed solutions to stamping out fraud in this area is that “Claimants to be subject to a standard, written statement of truth which must be explained to them by their solicitors”. That should do the trick then.
Another interesting statistic provided by the survey is that “almost 90 per cent of sufferers are diagnosed by a medical professional”. If 67% of respondents were giving inaccurate information to the medical professional (47% underreporting and 20% overreporting) how accurate were these diagnoses? I have yet to see a medical report in a whiplash claim where the medical "expert" identified the fact that the claimant’s symptoms were worse than described, although this should presumably be the case in almost 50% of medical reports. That is before we go on to the issue of how capable medical professionals are at identifying exaggerated claims. As my good friend Jacques Hughes previously commented via the Blog:
“If anyone thinks minor whiplash injuries are ‘proved’ by medical evidence, they are deluded. You go to a GP expert about 4 months post RTA. You tell him that your neck was very painful for a week or two, but symptoms gradually resolved over the course of the next 3 months. He writes this down, conducts a very simply examination to see if you are moving your neck OK. He then writes down “examination confirms a full recovery as stated.”
You then collect a tax free cheque for about £1,250.
Almost everyone now knows about this, and lots of otherwise honest people see it as OK to claim such symptoms post RTA and pocket the cheque.
I don’t suggest there are easy answers, but if you think this isn’t happening, and that it isn’t a problem, you are mistaken.”
Another of APIL’s proposed solutions to reducing fraud is for “insurers to be banned from making offers of compensation before a medical report has been seen: the medical report is a critical factor in ensuring a claim has merit and that accurate compensation is paid”.
Now let's turn to the survey's findings as to the time that whiplash injuries last. This records that it lasts up to a couple of days for 13% of sufferers and up to a couple of weeks for 25%. Just over half of those suffering injuries lasting up to a couple of weeks brought a claim. If the symptoms reported by those claimants were accurate it is difficult to see how it can be proportionate to insist upon medical reports before offers are made for such minor claims. On the other hand, if some of these claims are fraudulent it is difficult to see how a medical expert will be able to establish this by the time the medical examination is undertaken (usually weeks or months after the alleged symptoms have apparently cleared up).