Killer could get thousands in whiplash claim

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Police van

Three defendants were injured on their way to court, after two police vans carrying them crashed into one another. Reports are claiming that they are planning to claim compensation for whiplash - and that some of the other defendants and prison officers travelling in the vans are planning more claims.

Is this a sign of how compensation culture has taken hold in the UK?

Whiplash

According to the Daily Mail, the three men, Damian Gorman, 38, Francis Dixon, 37 and Ryan Hadfield, 29, were on their way to a trial at the end of May. Gorman was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 33 years. The other two were acquitted.

Their police van was on a roundabout leaving the M6, on its way from HMP Manchester to Preston Crown Court, when it collided with another van carrying more prisoners. The vans have to travel close together in order to prevent any other vehicles from coming between them, but it seems in this instance they got too close.

According to the Mirror, after the accident just four prison officers and one prisoner were taken to hospital for treatment.

The newspapers claim that the men are planning to take court action to pursue compensation for whiplash. They also quote a source who says that some of the others in the vans are considering suing for 'hurt feelings' as they say they thought the vans were under attack.

Is this right?

On the one hand, why shouldn't they claim? These men were in the custody of the prison service, and the service had a duty of care to them. If they suffered harm while in their care, they are entitled to claim for compensation.

There's an argument that if you are part of a gang with some serious rivals, and where there have been a number of recent murders, if you felt a bang on the van on the way to court you might be understandably shaken by the experience.

Whiplash, meanwhile, is a serious injury, which can result in pain and discomfort for months. In fact, one in five people suffer symptoms for more than a year. In any other circumstances we would expect them to make a claim, and their criminal associations shouldn't change this.

Out of hand

On the other hand, whiplash claims are getting out of hand, and the fact that symptoms are not external, and depend on the report of the individual, means the system is open to abuse. There has been a 60% rise in personal injury claims related to road accidents since 2006, despite vehicles becoming safer, and a 20% reduction in the number of reported accidents over the same period. Last year there were almost 550,000 claims for whiplash in the UK. In this environment it's easy to see why people are skeptical of any claim.

Of course, the issue here is not whether they make a claim, but whether they get any compensation. Anyone can make a claim for anything they like, it's just up to the legal system to decide whether that claim has any merit.

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