At the beginning of the year the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the new Whiplash Reforms 2021 will come into effect from 31st May this year. The reforms will change the personal injury claims process for those wishing to pursue a claim for some road traffic accidents (“RTA”), meaning the amount of compensation a claimant receives and claimant’s access to legal assistance/justice will be impacted.
The reforms are intended to change the way most road traffic accident claims are dealt with, particularly by aiming to reduce the number of fraudulent claims. However, will these changes discipline the wrong people? In this article, we explain how the new whiplash reforms will affect personal injury claims.
Impact of Whiplash Reforms on Personal Injury Claims
Under the new reforms there will be significant changes to the small claims limit for RTA claims and a set tariff of compensation for certain injury types will be introduced. For further information please read our article covering road traffic accident claims under the whiplash reforms 2021.
There is no doubt that the reforms impact personal injury claims, which will make it harder for individuals to pursue a claim if the injury sustained is because of a road traffic accident. Also, claimants with successful claims are likely to receive less compensation under the new reforms compared to the current ones.
Will the new whiplash reforms have any impact on my current personal injury claim?
No, the whiplash reforms will not impact your current claim. They will only impact road traffic accidents that occur on or after 31st May 2021.
In practical terms, what could the new Official Injury Claim Portal mean for me if I need to make a claim?
The Official Injury portal (“OIC”) is the new online portal that has to be used for some road traffic accident claims that occur on/after the 31st May 2021. Under the new rules the small claim limit for RTA is £5,000, therefore if the claimant’s injuries have a value of less than £5,000, they will go through the new OIC portal. However, “vulnerable road users” including children, cyclists and motorcyclists are exempt from the small claims limit and in these examples the small claims limit will remain at £1,000. The OIC portal is intended to be user friendly to allow claimants to bring forward their own claims with or without legal representation.
Will the small claims limit put solicitors off from representing personal injury whiplash claims? What cost will this represent to access to justice?
When a claim is classed as a “small claim”, legal costs cannot be recovered from the paying defendant at the end of the case. This means that the accident victim will have to pay for their legal representation, which may be prohibitive in many lower value cases, especially with the introduction of the new tariff of compensation for whiplash injuries. It is highly likely this will apply to many cases.
Also, the Government have introduced a new tariff of compensation for individuals suffering a whiplash injury. A whiplash injury is a soft tissue injury to the neck, back or shoulders. The new tariff will drastically reduce the amount of compensation an individual with a whiplash injury is eligible to claim and therefore what likely level of compensation they must pay any legal costs with. As a result, it restricts a claimant’s access to justice.
Are there any circumstances where my legal costs would be recoverable if I needed help from a solicitor and my claim was successful?
Yes, the small claim limit remains at £1,000 for certain categories of road users including those categorised as “vulnerable road users”. This includes children, pedestrians, wheelchair users, cyclists, horses, motorcyclists, and protected parties. Protected parties are adults who lack mental capacity to represent themselves.
For these categories of individuals who are involved in a road accident on/after 31st May 2021, the small claim limit will remain at £1,000. Therefore, legal costs will be recoverable in most of those cases.
What factors determine the compensation awarded if the claimant suffers both a whiplash and non-whiplash injury? Would the cause of injury influence the amount of compensation I can be awarded for a whiplash injury?
Excluding vulnerable road users, if a Claimant suffers a whiplash injury, the amount of compensation they receive will be determined by a new set tariff of compensation, which considers recovery time.
If a claimant suffers a non-whiplash injury (for example, a facture to the wrist) the Claimant’s injuries will be valued by reference to Judicial guidelines and to other similar cases that have been to court. Essentially a non-whiplash injury is valued by a Judge who has Judicial Discretion to determine the value of an injury.
In mixed cases, for example if a Claimant suffers a fracture to the wrist and a whiplash injury, we do not yet know how this will valued. Under the rules, we do not know if the Claimant will receive 100% of the tariff award and 100% of the non-whiplash injury value, or whether there will a mechanism to combine the two injury awards.
Our personal injury solicitors suspect a test case will need to go to the Court of Appeal for a precedent to be set to determine this. The concern is that until a decision is made about this the cases could be put “on hold” which would delay them.
Please note, these answers were taken from our participation in The Law Society’s Solicitor Chat on 1st April and were accurate on that date.
Specialist Personal Injury Solicitors Leeds & Yorkshire
Morrish Solicitors are a trusted Law Firm based in Yorkshire, we provide clear, honest, and professional legal advice on a range of personal injury claims. Our experienced personal injury solicitors are recognised for their ability to recover significant compensation on behalf of our clients, injured as a result of someone else’s negligence.
We can advise you on a range of personal injury claims including:
- Accidents at Work
- Road Traffic Accidents
- Public Liability
- Catastrophic Injuries
- Occupational Diseases
- Product Liability and Defective Product Litigation
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