Victims of whiplash were awarded an average of just over €20,000 in the first six months of 2018 for the pain and suffering they experienced following a road traffic incident and to cover the cost of medical expenses and loss of earnings, new figures show.
Data is to be released on Monday on whiplash – a soft-tissue injury to the neck or upper back – by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) for the first time follows a recommendation made by the Personal Injuries Commission to make the information publicly available. The commission had found that the average amount paid out in Ireland for whiplash was 4.4 times higher than for similar injuries in England and Wales.
Some 4,500 awards made in the first six months of 2018 were considered for the PIAB study.
It found women were more likely to be awarded higher compensation as a result of whiplash injuries. In the first six months of 2018 female victims received an average of €20,472 for general damages (pain and suffering) and special damages (payment for medical expenses and loss of earnings). And male victims received an average of €19,586 for general and special damages.
More than half of claimants who suffered whiplash received between €10,000 and €20,000, while 88 per cent received up to €30,000 in compensation.
The study shows more than 70 per cent of all personal motor cases assessed by the PIAB from January to June 2018 were related to whiplash. More than three-quarters of drivers who brought claims for assessment had suffered whiplash, while 69 per cent of passengers claiming damages had suffered whiplash.
‘High risk of abuse’
Former president of the High Court Nicholas Kearns warned in September that compensation for personal injury claims in Ireland was among the "most generous in Europe" with a high risk of abuse because the risk of prosecution for fraudulent claims was "virtually zero".
In the PIAB study, cases where victims suffered injuries to the soft tissue in the neck or upper back, including strains/sprains of the cervical or thoracic spine, were categorised as whiplash-related during the data collection. Combined soft-tissue injuries to the neck, shoulder and back were also regarded as whiplash. Fractures or soft tissue injuries to the lower body or limbs were excluded from the data.
Victims who suffered injuries which did not involve whiplash were more likely to receive higher compensation. The average payment for injuries not classified as whiplash was €27,386 in the first six months of the year. This increase in payment is most likely because non-whiplash related injuries involved fractures or more serious injuries, noted the PIAB.
The average whiplash award for the driver of a car was €19,066 in general damages and €1,734 in special damages, while passengers who suffered whiplash received an average of €17,026 in general damages and €857 in special damages.
The average total award for all motor cases assessed by the PIAB in the first six months of 2018 was €20,472 in general damages and €2,326 in special damages.
While the PIAB regularly publishes data on personal injuries compensation in Ireland, it does not have information on private settlements between insurance companies and claimants and has called for the publication of further data by the industry and other relevant bodies.