The Government, in a misdirected piece of legislation, set up a tariff system for car, van and truck driving whiplash sufferes. Yet motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians are not included in this tariff scheme.
What the tariff scheme missed is the massive claims inflation of replacement parts such as high tech LED lights and reversing sensors (just recently I saw the repair bill for a modest knock on a nice, but ordinary, Ford of nearly four grand. 20 years ago this would have been nothing more than a scuffed bumper, but currently many pricey electronics sit in car bumpers). Add to that the extortionate hire of courtesy cars and a bumper to bumper knock can easily get to five figures.
The government was persuaded that vulnerable road users did not have tiny little bumps, complain about miniscule aches and run off to accident management companies. On that basis a motorcyclist has a cause of action for a neck hyperextension injury based on their own personal response to the harm. So, if you have had a stiff neck for three weeks, don’t spend a few hundred pounds all at once.
Motorcyclists are unusually vulnerable to neck hyperextension injuries as a matter of biomechanics. For a start, we put 1.5kg of helmet on our head which increases head momentum by increasing the mass of our heads. This is especially so for female motorcyclists whose necks are proportionally thinner than their male counterparts on average, but the helmets we all wear largely the same weight.
Also we motorcyclists tend to get thrown clear of our mounts and our biggest risks are sliding and what stops us. Come to an ordinary sliding stop in decent, armoured abrasion resistant gear and the reality is you may be hurt but you won’t be terribly broken.
Our heads do not slam about unless we are really unlucky and whiplash alone is not a big part of a motorcycle solicitor’s work. But when it is it is usually combined with a number of other typical deceleration injuries such as damage to the base of the thumb and/or the wrist as the rider’s mass decelerates forcefully from 40mph to zero.
During such deceleration the energy carried by your body dissipate through these points of contact: each hand on the handlebar; the fuel tank which, as the rider slides forward, stands steadfastly in the way potentially causing impressive but sore swelling for the boys and a deeply painful traumatic opening of the pelvis for the girls; your head as it whips forward. That whipping tears muscles in your upper back and neck which can take a very long time to heal.
In the grand scheme of things to avoid whiplash is relatively low on the motorcyclist’s priority list of things to dodge. My practice is dominated by lower limb, upper limb and spinal injuries so I insist on good boots, abrasion resistance and gloves.
A neckbrace? Occasionally, riding off road where I don;t know the terrain or where I know it is going to be more technicl.
Bike Magazine June 2022