How do whiplash compensation claims differ around the world?

Whiplash is one of the most common forms of injury that is the result of a collision between cars on the roads. In many cases, whiplash will clear up by itself and be less of a nuisance than getting a bumper replaced or your headlights fixed. However, in some cases, the pain of whiplash can have long-lasting effects that will seriously impact the victims earning potential or even their ability to work at all.

Anywhere with a major car culture has a problem with Whiplash. Here we will take a look at how whiplash compensation can differ on an international level.

What is whiplash?

Before we begin it would be prudent to have a clear understanding of what whiplash is and the issues that can be caused by it. In simple terms, whiplash is caused by the jerking movement of your head and neck. These swift and sharp movements overextend the muscles in the neck.

The most common cause of whiplash is from rear-end collisions where the initial impact throws your head forward and then it snaps back.

The symptoms of whiplash often include:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness of the neck
  • Difficulty moving your head
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms in the shoulders and arms
  • Radiating pain

In severe cases numbness, tingling and dizziness may also be present. Psychological conditions such as depression, irritability, mood swings and character changes are also frequently attributed to whiplash.

Can the effects of whiplash be reduced?

Whiplash is often exasperated by incorrectly positioned headrests in cars. If the headrest is not at least above your ears there is the danger for your head to roll back over the headrest which can make the effects of the movement much worse.

Newer, high-end cars are now beginning to be developed with auto-adjusting head restraints that will react automatically to a collision by moving to protect your head and neck when it senses certain movements. If this development became a safety standard, similar to airbags being required, there is a high chance that the occurrence of whiplash would be reduced dramatically.

What are typical whiplash payouts?

Each individual case of whiplash can vary tremendously so it can often be best to think in terms of ranges of payouts for whiplash claims rather than simply averages. For this reason you will find a mixture of averages and ranges for the countries looked at below.

Europe

In Europe there is a significant difference in average whiplash compensation payouts across countries. A study carried out in 2004 by the Comité Européen des Assurances (CED) calculated that the average payout for whiplash claims were as follows

  • Switzerland €35,000
  • Germany €500
  • Finland €1,500
  • France €2,625
  • The Netherlands €16,500

2004 was quite some time ago, but unfortunately a more recent study has not yet been carried out. However, it is expected that average payout is probably now the highest in The Netherlands after the Swiss system changed  in 2008.

UK

The UK is currently developing a whiplash strategy that will see most cases moved into small claims courts, however the law has not been enacted yet. According to specialist whiplash solicitors, Thompson Scotland minor injuries can see pay outs of up to £1,860, while more serious injury could result in compensation claims totalling up to, and even over, £10,000.

USA

Claim amounts and limits vary on a state by state basis, but payout claims tend to start at around $2,500 with the potential to reach $10,000 even for fairly standard cases. In cases that result in nerve damage or other long term injuries, an average payout of $30,000 is more likely according to Hutchison & Stoy.

Canada

Similarly to the states, rates and limits of compensation will vary from province to province in Canada. For example, in Ontario, there is a maximum payout of $370,000 for non-economic damages. Ontario based lawyers, Bergen Clifford, suggest that the average payout for a recoverable injury is between $5,000 – $20,000.

Why the difference?

It may seem strange that compensation claims vary so much across countries. Private versus socialised medicine plays an important factor in some of these differences. Countries where medical treatment would have to be covered by the injured party tends to see higher payouts in order to cover these bills. In places where healthcare is generally free, there may be fees associated with long term or more unusual treatments that are not covered by the government plans. If this course of action can be proven in court a higher payout may be considered.

Whether the injuries mean that the victim is unable to work again is also a huge factor. In the case of Switzerland and the Netherlands, they were the only countries at the time of the CED study that considered whiplash able to cause permanent disability resulting in much higher payouts. However impact on future earnings is usually considered a factor in all countries.

Laws are continually changing and adapting to the pressures of advocate groups for accident victims, insurance companies and medical advice. If you are considering making a whiplash claim you would be wise to seek the help of a professional to find out the most recent legislation and typical payouts.

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