'Whiplash Reforms' - Changes in compensation claims for Road Traffic Accidents
- AuthorIan Rees
The Ministry of Justice has recently confirmed that the implementation of the new ‘Whiplash Reforms’ will come into force from 31 May 2021. These reforms will completely change the way in which Personal Injury claims arising out of Road Traffic Accidents, are dealt with, in that the compensation awards are significantly lower.
These reforms will also make it more difficult for the victims of a Road Traffic Accident to get legal representation for their claim. This is because the insurers of the Defendant party (the person at fault for causing the accident) will not be required to meet any legal costs for Personal Injury claims where the claim for General Damages (your injury) is valued at £5,000 or less.
Once the reforms come into force, this £5,000 limit will be the new limit for the ‘Small Claims Track’ relating to Personal Injury claims.
How does the system currently work? (Before 31st May 2021)
As it currently stands, the way in which low value claims are dealt with are through the online Ministry of Justice Claims Portal. This online portal deals with claims up to a value of £25,000, with the small clams limit currently set at £1,000 to warrant the instruction of a solicitor.
This enables people who have suffered relatively minor injuries to pursue a claim for personal injury with legal representation, as the Defendant party’s insurers will be required to pay the fixed legal costs in pursuing such a claim. This is the case, not only for Road Traffic Accidents but for Employers’ Liability and Public Liability claims.
What will the reforms mean for you?
If you are involved a Road Traffic Accident on or after the 31st May 2021 you will be subject to these new limits. The impact this will have on you is that, if you sustain minor ‘whiplash injuries’ valued at less than £5,000, then you will be left to take on the Defendant’s insurance company in your own right as an individual, as any legal costs cannot be recovered from them.
What types of claims will be affected?
These new reforms will only affect claims arising out of Road Traffic Accidents. Other claims arising as a result of Employers Liability, such as accidents at work and Public Liability, such as slips and falls in public places, will remain unaffected.
What kinds of injuries will be affected?
The reforms will introduce a new tariff based system, of which there are two categories.
The first tariff applies only to ‘whiplash type injuries,’ these being soft tissue injuries to the neck, back or shoulder, symptoms of which are not likely to exceed a period of 2 years. Examples of such soft tissue injuries would be:
- Muscle tears
- Ruptures; and “lesser damage” to a muscle, tendon or ligament.
The second tariff applies to the ‘whiplash type injuries’ as outlined above but with additional minor psychological injuries. As such there is a slightly higher award for those who have suffered both physical and psychological symptoms - it should however be pointed out that the ‘minor psychological symptoms’ have not yet been defined.
Are there any exceptions?
There are exceptions to the rules set out above and these exceptions will be applied to ‘vulnerable road users’. The definition of a vulnerable road user is as follows:
‘Vulnerable road user’ – a road user is treated as ‘vulnerable’ where, at the time the accident occurred, the Claimant was—
- Apillion passenger on, or a passenger in a sidecar attached to, a motor cycle
- Using a wheelchair, a powered wheelchair or a mobility scooter
- Riding a horse
- A pedestrian
It is also noted that children (under the age of 18 years of age) and others who lack legal capacity will still be able to recover legal costs despite the changes included in these reforms.
What compensation will I be entitled to?
Based on the tariff based system mentioned above, the amount of compensation entitlement is set out in the table below:
Duration of Injury
(Reg. 2 (1)(b)
Not more than 3 months
More than 3 months but not exceeding 6 months
More than 6 months but not exceeding 9 months
More than 9 months but not exceeding 12 months
More than 12 months but not exceeding 15 months
More than 15 months but not exceeding 18 months
More than 18 months but not exceeding 24 months
Therefore, regardless of the severity of the injuries you sustain as result of a Road Traffic Accident, or the impact these injuries have had on your daily life, such as on work, or home life, the amount awarded in respect of your pain, suffering and loss amenity will be calculated in line with the above tariffs. However, in some exceptional circumstances there could a possible increase in the amount of compensation awarded, of up to a 20% increase.
It is worth pointing out, that you would still be able to claim for out-of-pocket expenses such as loss of earnings, treatment costs etc. so that the value of the total claim (to include the compensation for your pain suffering) could go up to £10,000 but no further.
At the present time, there are still a lot of uncertainties regarding the implementation of these new reforms, and many questions to be addressed by the Ministry of Justice in terms of how access to justice will be upheld for those victims who have suffered as a result of a Road Traffic Accident.
If you have been involved in a Road Traffic Accident and have sustained an injury then, please contact us today to arrange your free consultation to discuss your potential claim, either by phone on 03333 209244, by email at email@example.com or via our enquiry form on our website or through our chat facilities.
Our expert Personal Injury team are based throughout South Wales with offices in the following locations: