Who remembers my car, Nigel? Unfortunately, Nigel died last week. In essence I performed the vehicular equivalent of a headbutt on another car during one fine evening after work, ramming a BMW hatchback (I have provisionally-named Andy). In the immediate aftermath, Andy sort of rolled away looking a bit dishevelled, while Nigel just sat there smoking menacingly with a crumpled face. Thankfully, no actual people were hurt in that making of that story.
It was my fault. We exchanged details in a civilised way, I apologised for not seeing him (it was twilight and he didn’t have his headlights on to be fair to me), and accepted that I was primarily to blame. I am not one of those people who tries to wriggle out of things, and if you’re under the impression that such an attitude is unusual for a lawyer then you are completely wrong (at least from what I have experienced at GW). The next day I reported the incident to my insurer, and when asked if I wanted to allege contributory negligence due to the headlight thing (which means that the other party is partly to blame and thereby your damages are reduced accordingly – and is one reason why you should always wear a seatbelt as not doing so can reduce any compensation you would have received by 50%), I said no. He had been a fair and honest sort, and didn’t shout at me (unlike his dad) - and so I saw no reason to try to reduce any insurance settlement he receives (to replace the now clearly written-off Andy) just to keep the inevitable increase in my premiums a little lower.
But guess what? Andy’s owner has gone and claimed personal injury for whiplash. When I read that in the Claim Notification Form (which replaces the Letter of Claim for low-value personal injury claims), I could not believe my eyes. He was absolutely fine at the time. What this means is that he is not the honest and decent sort I believed him to be. I’m not actually angry, really, more embarrassed for him that he’d elect to make such an emasculating move. Although both cars are now written-off, it actually wasn’t that bad; modern cars are designed to absorb the impact and so the slightest knock caves them in. I mean, Alan Partridge’s Personal Assistant got whiplash (“Don’t move Lynn you’ve broken your neck!”), which says it all really.
The Law Society estimates that in the UK there are approximately 60,000 fraudulent whiplash claims, costing drivers an average £90 extra on their insurance, every year. To combat this, the Government are taking steps to ensure that medical reports are more affordable (although still hundreds of pounds) and therefore that insurers for the responsible party will always ask for them, rather than consider them to be disproportionate in cost and therefore not worth obtaining. This change is due to come into force in October, and so hopefully just in time for my insurer. Add to this the loophole in Qualified One Way Costs Shifting (generally the rule that a Claimant in a Personal Injury claim will not be held liable for the Defendant’s costs no matter what) which means it will be dis-applied if the claim is found to be fundamentally dishonest, and Andy’s owner’s embarrassing try-on might end up costing him more than (although still in the least) his pride.
So, if you’re in an accident and the little voice in your head suggests lying and saying you have whiplash, think about the potential costs consequences and reconsider.
Until next time,