The Whiplash Injury Regulations 2021 were implemented on 31 May, changing how people who have suffered minor injuries following a road traffic accident can make a claim for compensation, and also the amount they can claim.
There are some 600,000 low value injury claims made every year, which means the cost of compensation has increased motor insurance premiums. The new Regulations, also known as the Whiplash Reforms, are the government’s way of tackling the issue, with a view to reducing premiums for all motorists, whilst making sure that claimants continue to receive appropriate compensation for their injuries.
The changes will allow for small claims for injuries resulting from a road traffic accident to be settled online, without the need to pay for legal representation, or go to court. There is now a fixed tariff for injuries lasting up to two years, a ban on settling claims without medical evidence, and an increase to the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000.
How much compensation can be claimed under the Whiplash Reforms?
Fixed amounts of compensation will be offered under the reforms for those who have suffered whiplash or other minor injuries such as muscle damage, minor fractures, cuts or bruises as a result of a road traffic accident that was not their fault.
The level of compensation will be influenced by the length of time the pain and suffering lasted:
- Symptoms lasting up to 3 months: £240
- Symptoms lasting 3-6 months: £495
- Symptoms lasting 6-9 months: £840
- Symptoms lasting 9-12 months: £1,320
- Symptoms lasting 12-15 months: £2,040
- Symptoms lasting 15-18 months: £3,005
- Symptoms lasting 18-24 months: £4,215
Where minor psychological injuries have also been suffered in addition to the pain and suffering, these amounts will rise to:
- Symptoms lasting up to 3 months: £260
- Symptoms lasting 3-6 months: £520
- Symptoms lasting 6-9 months: £895
- Symptoms lasting 9-12 months: £1,390
- Symptoms lasting 12-15 months: £2,125
- Symptoms lasting 15-18 months: £3,100
- Symptoms lasting 18-24 months: £4,345
For symptoms exceeding 24 months, the claim will be worth over £5,000, which means that the Whiplash Reforms will not apply, as the maximum claim amount is £5,000.
The courts are able to increase any amount receive for pain and suffering, but only in exceptional circumstances, for example if the injuries are considered ‘exceptionally severe’.
Out of pocket expenses can also be claimed on top of the compensation. For example, if someone is unable to work due to their injuries and has suffered a loss of income, this would be classed as out of pocket expenses.
In situations where the overall claim for both pain and suffering and any out of pocket expenses exceeds £10,000, the case will fall under current rules rather than the Whiplash Reforms.
Who do the Whiplash Reform rules apply to?
Anyone aged 18 or over who was inside a vehicle and involved in an accident that was not their fault after 31 May 2021 can make a claim under the new rules.
The Civil Liability Act 2018, under which the Whiplash Reforms are contained, only apply in England and Wales, so those in Scotland or Northern Ireland will not be affected.
Vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, are exempt from the reforms.
How will the Whiplash Reforms benefit motorists?
Whilst the compensation for those who have suffered injuries in road traffic accidents will be reduced, motorists are set to benefit financially courtesy of savings on their motor insurance premiums. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), whiplash claims were costing the insurance industry £2 billion per year.
The government has confirmed that the savings made by the insurance industry as a result of the reduction in compensation levels must be passed on to their customers. It is estimated that as a result, motorists will save around £35 per year on their motor insurance premiums.
Is it possible to recover legal costs under the Whiplash Reforms?
It is not possible to recover the costs of legal representation for injury claims worth less than £5,000 that will be dealt with under the reforms.
However, the government has made the process of making a claim more straightforward. The new self-service online portal, known as Official Injury Claim, makes it possible for injured parties to bring claims themselves.
Official Injury Claim has been set up by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. The service is impartial and free to use, and designed to be accessible to all so that there is no need to be able to understand complex legal processes.
The portal is supported by a customer contact centre, the Portal Support Centre, providing offline support for those who find it difficult to access or use the online service. The service is available in English and Welsh, with translation services in all the most commonly requested languages in the UK.
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