The Ministry of Justice have recently confirmed that the 'whiplash reforms' are due to come into force on the 31st May 2021. This will completely change the way that claims for personal injury following a road traffic accident are dealt with, and will not only mean that compensation awards are significantly lower, but also that it will be much harder for injured persons (claimants) to secure legal representation. The at fault insurer will not be required to meet any legal costs for claims where the injury is valued at less than £5,000, as this will be the new ‘small claims track’ limit for personal injury, which currently stands at £1,000. Unfortunately this means that where claims are disputed (either due to liability or causation of injuries), the claimant may be left to take on the insurance company on their own.
The current portal based system for low value personal injury claims (up to £25,000) is often described as “rough justice” due to its streamlined process. The new reforms take this much further, with a person suffering injuries in a road traffic accident receiving less compensation than those injured in other accidents, such as a slip or trip, even if their injuries are the same, or even worse. Someone that has suffered a three month injury due to a fall could recover compensation in the region of £2,300, however if the same injury was suffered in a road traffic accident, only £240 would be awarded. Even if the road user’s symptoms continued for up to 15 months, the award will still be less by comparison, regardless of the severity.
As solicitors acting for many injured clients we know what an impact even soft tissue injuries can have on a person’s life, especially those with symptoms for as long as two years. These paltry awards of between £240 and £4,215 will quite literally add insult to injury for many claimants.
What will be covered?
The new tariff based system applies to an injury of soft tissue in the neck, back or shoulder (often described as whiplash). This is not just simple soft tissue injuries though, as the reforms will cover a sprain, strain, or even a tear, rupture or “lesser damage” of a muscle, tendon or ligament.
The tariff based awards will be applied to any of the above symptoms which are expected to resolve within up to 2 years of the accident date. Minor psychological injuries are also covered, with a second, slightly higher award being recoverable for those that have suffered both physical and psychological symptoms.
What type of claims will be covered?
Not all road traffic accident claims will be subject to these new tariffs, as vulnerable road users will be excluded. This means the current guidelines (offering much higher awards), will remain in place for the following road users:
- Motorcyclists and pillion/sidecar passengers
- Horse riders
- Those in mobility scooters
Children and others who lack legal capacity (known as “protected parties”) will still be able to recover legal costs despite these changes, as their claims will not be allocated to the ‘small claims track’, regardless of the value.
What compensation will I be entitled to?
Based on the new tariffs which will be in force at the end of May, compensation for “whiplash injuries” with symptoms lasting up to two years will be fixed, as below:
|Duration of injury||Amount - Regulation 2(1)(a)||Amount - Regulation 2(1)(b)|
|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||£1,390|
|More than 12 months, but not more than 15 months||£2,040||£2,125|
|More than 15 months, but not more than 18 months||£3,005||£3,100|
|More than 18 months, but not more than 24 months||£4,215||£4,345|
Regardless of the severity of the injuries sustained, or the affect it has had on a claimant’s daily and working life (for example needing weeks off work, or lengthy treatment), the amount awarded for pain and suffering will be limited in accordance with this tariff. There is the possibility of an increase in ‘exceptional circumstances’ but even so this will be limited to 20% of the fixed sums.
There are many questions yet to be answered by the Ministry of Justice in relation to the implementation of these new rules and how access to justice will be upheld for victims of road traffic accidents. Most people will be familiar with “no win no fee” funding agreements in these types of cases, however unfortunately this is likely to change for claims worth less than £5,000.00 after May 2021.
If you have been involved in any type of accident and have not yet instructed solicitors, we would recommend that you do so as soon as possible. You can call our specialist personal injury team on 0161 696 6235 or complete our online enquiry form.