LETTER OF THE DAY - Whiplash and motor premiums

Published: Friday | August 28, 2009


THE MOTORING public needs to be more aware of one of the main reasons for the size of motor insurance premiums.

There has been a long-standing and steadily escalating, cottage industry among some small but active sections of the legal and medical professions, aimed at extracting the maximum amounts from the motor insurance industry - and ultimately the unfortunate premium-paying motorist - for alleged whiplash injuries.

It is an open secret that certain attorneys-at-law have a panel of tame medical practitioners, to whom they know they can refer almost any passenger travelling in a motor vehicle and, who, after a mere verbal report of alleged pain and/or stiffness by the passenger, will automatically churn out a medical report certifying 'whiplash' - often in the form of a standard template.

Many sympathetic judges, honestly and in the best of faith, will give an award for general damages in the region of $800,000, sometimes as high as $1,300,000, or higher, once the magic word, 'whiplash' appears - without any allegation of permanent disability - on any medical report. Needless to say, if the medical practitioner can be prevailed upon to assess a one or two per cent permanent partial disability, which he is able to do without any sign of physical injury, then the damages automatically increase to $1,500,000 upwards!

There are definitely some genuine cases but it is widely felt that the majority of these claimants have little or nothing wrong with them. With the hundreds of whiplash claims presented to motor insurers in any given week, with automatic settlements in the region between $550,000 and $1,300,000 by insurers to avoid otherwise inevitable legal awards plus legal costs, many lawyers are now collecting 30 per cent of any settlements achieved for their clients!

The rights of genuinely injured person must be preserved but this racket is getting out of hand and it is high time that it be given more careful attention with a view to separating the genuine cases from the fakers, unless we all enjoy paying higher and higher motor premiums! Despite the intense rhetoric which is likely to be raised to cloud the issue, this matter needs to be seriously addressed.

I am, etc.,

Joseph Spencer

Red Hills

St Andrew