According to experts, 25% of the £6 billion spent by motor vehicle insurers each year goes on personal injury payments. About 90% of those are whiplash, equivalent to an annual £1.2 billion bill – much of which goes to lawyers fighting the injury claims for clients. In comparison, about 70% of the £6 billion goes on ‘bumpers and bonnets’.
Experts complain that these expensive injuries are often unnecessary and easily avoided by careful adjustment to seating by the driver or by a relatively small investment by the manufacturer.
Matthew Avery is crash laboratory manager at Thatcham, which is involved in programmes including EuroNCAP and personal injury research. Speaking at the Fleet News Spring Conference, sponsored by Nissan and Lloyds TSB autolease, Avery said: ‘Some 72% of drivers do not even check their head restraint. It should reach the top of your head and you should feel it touching the back of your head.’
Whiplash injury increases dramatically where the headrest is a like a ‘marshmallow’, as it provides no support to the neck in an impact.
Avery claimed one of the poorest performing cars when it came to insurance claims for whiplash was the last-generation Volkswagen Golf, because the seat was not designed effectively. As a result, the latest Golf has heavily reworked seats and head restraints, he said.