There have been many complaints lately that Britain is starting to have a ‘compensation culture’, particularly in regards to injuries such as whiplash resulting from motoring accidents. There are worries that the public is beginning to view compensation more as ‘free money’ than as damages designed to put a successful claimant back in the position they were in before the accident took place. The concern is that people are using relatively minor and difficult to disprove injuries as a basis for ‘playing the system’ and so taking away from genuine cases.

Free Money? 

There is certainly some evidence that this could be the case. Statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions compensation recovery unit show that claims for motoring injuries have risen by 52% over the last 5 years to a staggering 790,999 in 2010/11, leading one Downing Street spokesperson to comment that Britain is now the ‘whiplash capital of Europe’. Some have claimed that is a result of the many advertisements aired on television encouraging people to seek compensation for accidents, however small they are.

Bogus claims are also encouraged by flaws in the system which mean that making a personal injury claim is perhaps too simple a process. It is argued that doctors are diagnosing whiplash too easily and insurance companies are settling claims quickly in order to keep costs down rather than challenging them in court. There is also the obvious and rather ironic detail that the insurance companies themselves have been known to make a large profit from selling the details of their injured clients to personal injury firms for representation.

Better Information?

However, as the Young Review has pointed out, this does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that we do now live in a compensation culture. The other possibility is that this actually shows a positive trend because a higher percentage of the general public are now aware of their legal rights. While in the past many have been barred from seeking rightful compensation due to a lack of information and legal advice, this has now been remedied.

Resolving the Underlying Issues

Further plans are in the pipeline in order to reduce the number of claims reaching the insurance companies and then from being taken further. This includes measures such as imposing a limit on how slowly a car can be travelling before whiplash can be claimed and also restricting the legal fees that can be charged by those representing the claimants.

However, these plans are far from flawless and there is always the concern that in trying to reduce the number of bogus claims the measures will go too far and result in rightful claimants being barred. For example, what will happen to the driver that is hit by a large truck while travelling under the minimum speed limit?

It is clear that a middle ground must be found, but knowing where to draw the line will always be a difficulty even before considering how to implement such a new structure nationwide.

This post was written on behalf of Hughes Carlisle. Click here for more compensation info