Legal Cost Specialists

Whiplash numbers – myth or fact?

By on Jul 1, 2016 | 0 comments

The EU Referendum debate was plagued by the most outrageous selective, misleading and simply untruthful use (by both sides) of figures and statistics.  Thankfully we can now get back to the proper business of the law where we can trust lawyers to use figures and statistics in an honest and open manner that genuinely supports their position.

Oh. Wait.  I had forgotten about APIL.  For the third straight year running they are repeating the same old discredited nonsense.  Have these people no shame?

APIL tweeted on 27 June 2016:

“Whiplash claims have fallen 41% since 2010/11. Let’s build policy based on fact, rather than myth.”

Access to Justice Action joined in by retweeting this and adding:

“Insurers are pushing #dodgydata @APIL. Claims have fallen but motorists have paid £353 MILLION MORE in premiums!”

So what does the CRU data actually say has happened to motor claims since 2010/11?

The figures for settlements recorded shows the number of motor claims as:

2010/11                659,671

2015/16                732,788

I am taking “settled” to mean claims where damages were paid (but am happy to be corrected on that).  So the actual figures for motor claims settled shows a fairly significant increase in claims where insurers have had to pay out.  This will, understandably, be reflected in higher premiums.  This is how insurance works.

More commonly, commentators focus on the number of claims registered.  What does the CRU data show?

2010/11                790,999

2015/16                770,791

This is, by my calculations, a statistically irrelevant 2.6% drop.

So far as I can see, the DWP website gives no breakdown to show the number of whiplash claims as opposed to non-whiplash claims.  We will give APIL the benefit of the doubt and assume their “whiplash” figures come from the CRU data and they have not simply made this up.

If claim numbers are largely unchanged over this period but whiplash claims are down around 40%, it must mean non-whiplash claims are up by exactly the same amount in terms of absolute numbers.

Whiplash claims are generally claims that fall at the lower end of the injury scale in terms of damages paid.  It is difficult to see how these figures can be interpreted as meaning anything other than that there has been a massive increase in more serious non-whiplash injuries.  Ignoring any changes in the level of costs payable for these claims as a result of recent rule changes, we would therefore have expected premiums to increase significantly.  If claim numbers are overall unchanged but the average claim is more serious, that seems inevitable.

My suspicion is that there has actually been no significant change in whiplash numbers but that many claims have simply been “reclassified”, possibly as a result of the new rules concerning soft tissue injuries.  (I suspect the real story here is about the integrity of claimants and/or their medical experts when reporting symptoms.)

In any event, APIL repeating the same old sorry half-truths does nothing to advance any genuine debate.  But then, APIL is a campaigning organisation.  Why should we expect anything better from lawyers than politicians where it comes to spin?

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  1. Whiplash claims down? | Legal Costs Blog - […] mysterious issue of the disappearing (according to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) whiplash claims […]

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