Road Traffic Accident Claims – The 2021 Whiplash Reforms

PUBLISHED 20.09.21

 

As of the end of May 2021, there has been a reform of legislation in relation to claiming for whiplash injuries arising from a Road Traffic Accident. These reforms have had a significant effect on what a Claimant can recover in a claim for whiplash injuries.

Prior to these reforms, a Personal Injury Claim arising out of a Road Traffic Accident would simply need to include a claim for pain, suffering and loss of amenity valued at over £1,000. This was often achievable with relatively minor injuries, including whiplash, as long as symptoms lasted three months or more from the date of the accident. As such, Claimant Solicitors were able to represent Claimants in cases of this level on a no win no fee basis as they could recover at least fixed costs from the Defendant’s insurers and a success fee from the Claimant. A small claim of under £1,000 would not be economically viable for a Claimant Solicitor to take on as the costs recoverable would be very low.

A regular issue in claims for minor whiplash injuries was that the impact or speed of the collision itself would be fairly minimal, hence only minor injuries were suffered, or claimed to be suffered. This could often give rise to exaggerated or potentially fraudulent claims where a Claimant may have purported worse injuries than were actually suffered. A suspicious Defendant Insurer may argue that the impact was too low to cause the injuries claimed for and, therefore, the claim was exaggerated or even fraudulent. This often led to large legal costs in a claim worth very little and could end up at a final trial, taking up the Court’s time.

The reforms that came into place in May 2021 aim to lower the frequencies of low value or fraudulent claims, saving Defendant insurers money and reducing the workloads of the Courts. The key point of these reforms is that a claim for Personal Injury arising out of a Road Traffic Accident will be allocated to the small claims track if the value of the claim is under £5,000. In view of this, Claimant Solicitors will likely no longer take on claims worth under £5,000 as they will only be able to recover small claims costs.

Together with this increase to the small claims limit, May 2021 also saw the introduction of The Whiplash injury Regulations 2021 that creates a new framework for valuing whiplash injuries. A whiplash injury is defined as;

“… a sprain, strain, tear or rupture of one or more of the muscles, tendons or ligaments in the neck or back which has been caused by the backward or forward or sideways movement of the neck beyond the limit of its normal range of motion.”

Prior to May 2021, this type of injury formed the basis of a wide range of Road Traffic Accident claims. A whiplash injury of approximately 6 months in duration would have been worth approximately £2,000. The new regulations set out the following tariffs for whiplash injuries;

 

Duration of injury Amount
Not more than 3 months £240 – £260
More than 3 months, but not more than 6 months £495 – £520
More than 6 months, but not more than 9 months £840 – £895
More than 9 months, but not more than 12 months £1,320 -£1390
More than 12 months, but not more than 15 months £2,040 – £2125
More than 15 months, but not more than 18 months £3,005 – £3100
More than 18 months, but not more than 24 months £4,215 – £4345

 

These bandings are much lower in value than what could previously be claimed for a whiplash injury. They also mean that, even for a whiplash injury of two years in duration, the claim will still be valued at below £5,000 and therefore considered to be a small claim. In view of this, it is unlikely that Claimant Solicitors will consider taking on a claim for a two-year whiplash injury claim as the legal costs recoverable will be very low.

In addition, the reforms also forbid settlement being agreed without a medical report being obtained. Previously, pre-medical offers were a common way for low value Road Traffic Accident claims to be settled but this is no longer possible. Obtaining a medical report can often be expensive in its own right and time consuming for the Claimant so this creates another hurdle for a Claimant to overcome when considering making a claim for whiplash.

In cases that involve multiple injuries including whiplash, or cases where the injuries differ from whiplash, the small claims limit still sits at £5,000 but this may be easier to overcome as the value of other injuries is more significant than the tariffs prescribed to claims for whiplash alone.

It is unlikely that Claimant Solicitors will be able to make claims for whiplash financially viable following the reforms of May 2021 but claims including other injuries will still be possible.

If you have an enquiry regarding a personal injury claim, please call our offices and ask to speak with someone from the Personal Injury Department:

Exeter 01392 285000    Cullompton 01884 33818     Newton Abbot 01626 330127