The Government’s Whiplash Reform programme came into force on 31 May 2021. In this article Personal Injury Specialist, Alice Robson explains what this will mean for Claimants.
Previously, those who suffered a whiplash injury with compensation valued at over £1,000 could obtain legal advice and have it paid for by the insurers of the vehicle at fault.
Now claims valued at less than £5,000 will have to be pursued by ‘litigants in person’, meaning the injured party will have to pursue the claim themselves, without legal representation. The reason for this is that, unlike in other Personal Injury claims, any legal costs incurred will not be recoverable within the claim, whether it is successful or not. This means legal costs could easily outweigh the amount of compensation received, leaving the injured party out of pocket.
In a standard Personal Injury claim, your legal representative will instruct a medical expert on your behalf to obtain a medical report. Under the new reforms, Claimants will need to obtain the medical report themselves. This will be done through a new ‘Portal’ and, once fault for the accident has been admitted by the other party’s insurer, they will be able to instruct an expert from a database. If fault has been admitted, the other party’s insurer will pay for the report.
Will the reforms apply to me?
If you are a road user, are involved in a vehicle-on-vehicle collision and suffer a whiplash injury to the neck, back and/or shoulders, and the value of your claim is worth less than £5,000, then the reforms will apply to you. This same protocol applies if you suffer whiplash and another injury, like a knee injury, and the combined value is less than £5,000.
It is important to note that the reforms will not apply to those classified as “vulnerable road users”, which means, motor cyclists and pillion/sidecar passengers, cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and those using mobility scooters. In addition, the reforms will not apply to children or protected parties. However, extension of the reforms to cover these groups may be considered in the future.
What could I be entitled to?
The compensation awarded in a Personal Injury claim is split into two ‘heads of damage’. The first is compensation for your injuries which reflects your pain, suffering and ‘loss of amenity’ (enjoyment/quality of life). The second is financial losses such as loss of earnings from time off work, travel expenses or medical fees.
The amount of compensation awarded for whiplash injuries will be reduced under the new rules and a new tariff has been set based on the duration of your injury. The tariff ranges in duration from ‘not more than 3 months’ where the award would be from £240 up to ‘more than 18 months, but not more than 24 months’ where the award would be up to £4,345. If you have suffered an additional injury, this will not fall under the tariff and will be valued separately.
Under the new Whiplash Reforms, if the award for your injuries alone is likely to exceed £5,000, or if the combined award for your injuries plus your financial losses is more than £10,000, you will not be included in the new reforms, you will be able to obtain legal representation and recover your legal costs. Do bear in mind that compensation for your injuries includes not only physical whiplash but also any psychological injuries.
How can I pursue a claim under the new rules?
Claims will need to be pursued via a new online portal named ‘Official Injury Claim’. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) are preparing to launch the new platform which will go live on 31 May. The new Portal can be accessed at https://www.officialinjuryclaim.org.uk/ and is intended to be a simple, user-friendly and efficient tool for the settlement of claims, without the need for legal representation or Court action.
We appreciate that any litigation will be as a result of an unpleasant experience and it can be an overwhelming process. Dutton Gregory is committed to helping those who have suffered injury and has registered as Claimant Representatives on the new Official Injury Claim portal so if you do wish to seek legal advice, please call our free phone number 0800 0901499 to speak to one of our Personal Injury team who will be happy to help.