Norwich Union (NU) has played down the impact that new whiplash research will have on motor claims and premiums.

Motor research organisation Thatcham recently claimed that its study, which found that whiplash was

significantly less likely to occur at speeds less than 10mph, would help insurers fend off fraudulent claims, by providing court admissible data to challenge claims.

It also suggested that safety-related variations in seat and car type could provide a framework for insurers to rethink premiums.

NU, however, was reluctant to suggest Thatcham’s research would provide conclusive evidence in the courtroom.

Richard Ellis, NU head of motor claims, said: “Although in theory it might be difficult to obtain whiplash, particularly at low speeds, there are extenuating circumstances, such as the facing direction of the driver’s head at the time of collision, that make it difficult to prove that whiplash was not caused.”

Only around 10% of motor claims involved bodily injury, of which 85% of those include whiplash.

Ellis also played down the potential impact of the research on setting premiums.

“The main drivers are repair costs and security measures. In terms of absolute numbers, there won’t be much impact on either claims or premium.”

Thatcham said that two “big name” insurers in the UK were involved in its research. The beta-version of its model is expected to be completed by the end of this year, and will be rolled out onto the market next year.