Surgeon: Whiplash is a social disease

Surgeon: Whiplash is a social disease

An orthopaedic surgeon has described whiplash injuries in low impact crashes as a social disease.

Garry Fenelon, who specialises in orthopaedic trauma and joint revision and reconstruction, made the comment in the Circuit Civil Court on Wednesday while giving evidence in a back and neck injury case and again on Newstalk Breakfast on Friday.

He acknowledged that there are “genuine cases”, but added that there are societal expectations now that following a rear ending incident “that one should have some neck pain and other symptoms of discomfort across the shoulder.

The next factor is that your car has been damaged and you’re annoyed at that, and then you look around and see everyone is getting compensation for having aches and pains, so why not me.

There is a combination of factors, he said. “There's also the fright of having something happen out of the blue that was not anticipated expect to say that some drivers look in their rear view mirror and see the car coming as well, but not in all cases.”

Compensation for whiplash varies from country to country, he said with only one country in Europe paying out more compensation than Ireland.

Mr Fenelon pointed out that whiplash compensation in Ireland is four to five times higher than in the UK, while levels in Germany are half that in the UK with no payment at all for whiplash compensation in Lithuania and Greece, he said.

He compared the case in Australia where there was a deluge of repetitive strain injuries in the 1980s costing millions of dollars, “the government stepped in and said they were not paying out any more and that died a death.”

The surgeon also highlighted a Canadian study which had suggested that compensation payments for whiplash should be stopped for pain and suffering and the only payments should be for physio sessions and medical expenses.

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