Tag: transport select committee

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. 

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.