What is whiplash? Is it a fractured vertebrate in the neck, torn ligament, severe headaches, or just an inexplicable soreness that doesn't go away? The simple answer: no one knows. There is no clear, singular definition of an injury which, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), costs more than £2 billion a year and gobbles up more than 20% of the average motor insurance premium. That is £90 a year paid by the average UK motorist to their insurer, just to account for the overwhelming volume of whiplash claims.
Exactly how many whiplash claims? According to the ABI, one per minute.
Make no mistake, the UK is the whiplash capital of Europe: 78% of low value motor personal injury claims are for whiplash, compared to an average of 48% throughout the rest of Europe. According to a recent survey of the general public by AXA Insurance, 2% of respondents openly admitted to filing a fraudulent or exaggerated whiplash claim, and 11% knew someone who had done the same. Two out of every 100 Britons, not just those who had been in an accident - or even necessarily motorists - openly admitted to gaming the system by filing whiplash claims they knew to be false.
This is one of the greatest known frauds of our time. But it needn't be. Current technology and data offers significant opportunities to cut down on fraudulent whiplash claims.
Today, telematics technology built into cars on the manufacturing floor provides crash reconstruction dossiers that can show, with a forensic level of detail, where the car has been damaged, as well as the speed and angle of impact.
Only certain types of accidents are capable of producing injury, whiplash or otherwise. Octo's analysis of acceleration and force data enables us to look at an accident before any insurance claim is made and understand the precise likelihood of injury. Put simply: no, your aunt didn't get whiplash in the Tesco car park.
The UK government is already taking action on whiplash. In November, the Ministry of Justice launched a consultation on proposals to reduce whiplash claims and, thus, allow insurers to cut car insurance premiums.
The consultation, which will run until 6 January 2017, outlines plans to cap the amount people can claim for minor whiplash injuries. Compensation would only be paid out if a medical report was provided as proof of injury, and capping compensation would see the average pay-out cut from £1,850 to a maximum amount of £425.
Even if this measure is passed, which is a significant if, the claim value itself remains a small portion of the overall cost to insurers. According to AXA, costs like investigation, medical reports and lawyer fees may actually cost the insurer two or three times the amount of the initial claim.
If, at the point of a crash, Octo data empowers motorists, insurers and medical professionals to better assess when further action is necessary, all parties can make informed decisions about the most efficient path forward. Motorists will know their likelihood of realising a whiplash claim, and insurers, doctors and lawyers will be significantly more informed in assessing and addressing those claims.
Where data shows extremely low likelihood of injury, your aunt and the tens of thousands like her will think twice before making their next car park whiplash claim.