Firms urged to publish data on whiplash injuries

Information held by insurance companies and other organisations on the incidence of whiplash injuries should be published, according to the Personal Injuries Commission.

The commission’s first report believes there is a good reason for publishing the information — it could form part of the National Claims Information Database being developed by the Central Bank of Ireland.

The commission was established in January following a recommendation of the cost of insurance working group and is chaired by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns.

The report recommends that doctors adopt a standardised approach to diagnosing, treating and reporting on soft tissue injuries, which are mostly whiplash related.

Mr Justice Kearns said the move would improve the personal injuries environment in Ireland by promoting “an objective standard” for assessing such injuries.

However, the commission is not recommending that an independent medical panel be set up to assess soft tissue injuries, saying it would interfere with a claimant’s rights.

Car insurance increased by 70% between 2013 and 2016 and some commentators have blamed exaggerated or fraudulent claims.

The commission recommends that the Quebec Task Force Whiplash Associated Disorder grading scale should be used by all medical professionals reporting on relevant injuries.

The internationally recognised scales are based on the severity of symptoms and associated physical signs.

“Training and accreditation in soft tissue reporting is agreed as being the best practice requirement for those wishing to complete relevant reports,” it states.

Currently, there is no specific accreditation required or benchmark standard for a doctor wanting to complete a medico-legal report on a personal injury claim.

Mr Justice Kearns said future reports will look at comparative systems and benchmarking compensation award levels internationally.

He said: “Preliminary findings suggest that the frequency of soft-tissue injury claims in Ireland would app-ear to be significantly higher than a lot of other European countries. It remains to be determined whether this could be a contributing factor in terms of claims frequency or exaggeration.”

The commission believes that combining a template for assessing soft-tissue injuries with best-practice guidelines can deliver significant improvements and greatly enhance the personal injury claims environment in Ireland.

It recommends the linking of future publications of guidelines as to the amount of compensation to be awarded to the new standardised examination reporting injuries categories. The Book of Quantum, published by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, provides information on prevailing personal injury award levels.

Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Heather Humphreys believes the commission’s recommendations will help bring more consistency to medical reporting and diagnosis.

The commission’s first report covers phase one of a three-phase, 18-month work programme.

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