Tag: injury threshold

The Transport Committee released its fourth report today into the cost of motor insurance: whiplash. Here, head of research at GBB and Chartered Engineer, Philip Hoyes discusses some of the issues arising out of the report.

A Bachelor of Automobile Engineering and published author in LVI occupant kinematics, Philip has experience in the investigation, analysis and reconstruction of vehicle incidents. A qualified Collision Investigator, he regularly examines motor vehicles with respect to consistency of alleged accident damage, occupant kinematics and component failure.

General Observations

The fourth report of The Transport Select Committee has been relatively well received and it has been interesting today to see the reaction from The ABI, MASS, FOIL and many other interested onlookers.

Medical evidence has been awarded a typically high priority compared with research-based, objective engineering evidence.

The collision is the causal event that may lead to an injury – the effect. In determining the likelihood of soft tissue injury, too much emphasis is placed on medical evidence which deals only with the effect and not with the cause, i.e. the collision.

Medical reports typically base their conclusions on an understanding of the impact mechanics as described to them by the Claimants but the fact is that in most cases the impact mechanics and specifics of the circumstances are in dispute.

Medical opinion might be reserved until expert opinion is sought clarifying the most likely version of events (which includes classifying the collision type – collinear or glancing for example) and clarifying the likely impact severity based on damage.

When determining the validity of a whiplash claim, scientific, research-based engineering evidence is at least as important than the evidence provided by a medical expert.

Specific Observations

Section:  Low-Velocity Impacts Para. 16

Andrew Miller, Director of Research at Thatcham, drew attention to experience in Germany in the 1990s where claims for whiplash only progressed to medical assessment if the accident happened at a speed of at least 10 km/ph (6.25 mph). He argued that if the Government wished to adopt a similar approach it would be possible to derive from biomechanical evidence a speed of impact below which injury was very unlikely.

This quote highlights the necessity of engineering guidance.

The German approach involved speed changes of 10km/h.

Speed changes are not the same thing as impact speeds, but the two are often confused.

Speed changes are affected by factors such as collision speed, vehicle mass and impact dynamics: all of which require accurate, research-based scientific analysis.

This is precisely the analysis GBB researches and conducts on a regular basis.

Section:  Low-Velocity Impacts Para. 17

Andrew Ritchie QC said “there are many medical papers to show that four to five miles an hour is about the threshold” for whiplash injury to occur but argued that women and older people are more likely than men and younger people to suffer injury during low-speed impacts. In his view, there was a danger that “if you introduce a threshold, what you are really doing is excluding the vulnerable from their right to claim.

Reasonable thresholds must exist and whilst the issue of actual injury is beyond the remit of the engineer, GBB takes an approach focussed upon the speed change of the vehicle and the acceleration of its occupants. That is to study the mechanism which might lead to injury and develop thresholds based upon acceleration.

This vital piece of evidence should be available to anyone wishing to validate a whiplash-type injury.

 Section:  Conclusions Para. 63

Although it may make economic sense for an individual insurance firm to settle a claim without medical evidence or to pay out even if fraud or exaggeration is suspected, the industry as a whole is damaged, and motorists pick up the bill in the form of higher premiums. Insurers must immediately put their house in order and end practices which encourage fraud and exaggeration. If not, the Government should take steps to protect motorists.

I sympathise with insurers for the external pressure placed upon them. On one hand reforms in the MOJ guidelines limit the time they have to respond to a claim whilst on the other the Government’s report calls for insurers to investigate wherever fraud or exaggeration is suspected.

Without a reliable method for testing the validity of a claim, insurers can be left between the devil and the deep blue sea.

A viable solution is the File Appraisal Scheme operated by GBB.

For a fixed, low cost GBB can provide expert, research-based opinion on the quality of the available evidence, plus a preliminary guidance on vehicle and occupant kinematics which allows the client to make informed decisions without compromising the legislative deadlines put upon them.

For more information in relation to anything featured within this article, please contact us. 

GBB Managing Director Brian Henderson has been awarded a Master of Science Degree (MSc) in the field of forensic science.

Brian’s thesis, entitled A Retrospective Study in understanding ‘Low Speed Change’ Vehicle Collisions, Occupant Movement and Likelihood of Injury is a synthesis of many years of investigation and original research all of which has been self-funded. The award of an MSc to Brian from a University that has a world-wide reputation in the field of Forensic Science asserts GBB’s credibility as a company that is at the forefront of collision investigation and research.

Low speed collisions and in particular whiplash associated disorder continue to be a major talking point in the UK with the Government and the insurance industry actively looking to tackle the issue. 

The most recent ABI statistics in relation to whiplash claims (published in 2008) state:-

  • 430,000+ people claimed for whiplash in 2007, up by 1/4 in the last five years. Cost nearly £2 billion a year in compensation.
  • Whiplash injuries now cost the NHS approximately £8 million a year in consultation fees.
  • UK is the whiplash capital of Europe: 75% of motor personal injury claims for whiplash, compared to an average of 40% throughout the rest of Europe.
  • Many drivers and passengers are at risk: 75% of drivers are unaware how head restraints should be correctly positioned.

At GBB, we believe that first-hand research is essential for knowledge and understanding of all aspects of road traffic accident investigation and further investment in research and joint projects with academic institutions are planned in the near future.


GBB are exhibiting at The Solicitors Group Flagship Event, Law 2012, The Gallery, NEC, Birmingham on 9th & 10th October 2012

Law 2012 is one of The Solicitors Group’s 3 flagship events for the legal profession and will be held for the seventh consecutive year at the NEC, Birmingham.

The event regularly attracts up to 2,000 legal professionals and is widely regarded as one of the leading events for the legal profession.

GBB will be in attendance exhibiting and providing practical demonstrations of the work that we do and the research that we undertake.

In attendance on behalf of GBB will be Operations Director Matthew Stansfield, and Director In Charge of Large Loss Paul Fidler.

GBB Managing Director Brian Henderson is to appear on the BBC Radio Lancashire Breakfast Show on Thursday 16th February 2012 in a live discussion about insurance claims and the moves by the UK insurance industry and Government to tackle the perceived “whiplash epidemic”.

Brian will appear on the Breakfast Show with Graham Liver.

To listen follow the links below:


16 Feb 2012

6:00am to 9:00am

BBC Radio Lancashire



The Transport Select Committee has today released an update to its March report covering the rising costs of motor insurance premiums. It has advised that the cost of motor insurance could be cut if the government restricted the huge number of ‘subjective’ whiplash injury claims.

GBB Managing Director Brian Henderson and Operations Director Matthew Stansfield met with Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament in May further to the first report. Assistance was given relating to practical issues surrounding ‘whiplash’ and similar genre claims.

The Transport Select Committee’s findings are that Claimants should have to prove they have suffered a whiplash injury. The report highlights the fact that there has been a 70% rise in motor insurance claims in the past six years, despite a 23% drop in the number of casualties actually caused by road traffic accidents.

Louise Ellman MP, told the BBC that whiplash claims are ‘subjective and costly’. Mrs Ellman said the increase in claims for personal injuries was the main reason for the rise in claims overall and that whiplash, in turn, accounted for 70% of all personal injury claims.

“Many of these claims are for whiplash, an injury where diagnosis is often subjective and therefore very costly for insurers to challenge,” she said.

“The threshold for receiving compensation in whiplash cases should be raised and, if the number of such claims does not fall significantly, the government should bring forward primary legislation to require objective evidence – both of a whiplash injury and of it having a significant effect on the claimant’s life – before compensation is paid,” she added.
GBB is at the forefront of investigation and research into low speed accidents and the effects upon the vehicles involved and their occupants.
For any further information about services relating to low speed cases please contact us.

Managing Director Brian Henderson presented this paper at The Forensic Science Society Spring Conference entitled “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” which was held at The National Railway Museum in York on 22nd April 2010.

The technical paper follows on from the previously published paper looking at the 5mph injury threshold in low speed collisions. This paper is also available to download in this section of the site.