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Official Injury Claims for road traffic accidents, should I instruct a solicitor?

View profile for Katie Plappert
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Where and when are you most likely to have a car accident?

It has now been four months since the government changes to low value road traffic accident claims were introduced, and the Official Injury Claims (OIC) website launched, on 31st May 2021.

The changes not only reduced the amount of compensation due to the majority of those injured when involved in a road traffic accident, but also removed the ability to recover legal costs from the at fault party or their insurers in many claims.

The Official Injury Claims portal was designed to allow injured persons to bring their own claim, without the need for legal representation, if they so wish. Official data has not yet been provided although it seems that only a relatively small percentage of claims are being submitted by individuals (referred to as ‘litigants in person’). The current figure is thought to be around 9% of all claims are submitted in person, but the government want to get this figure to 30%.  This either suggests that solicitors are still dealing with the majority of claims for those injured, or it may be that many have opted not to claim on learning of the lower compensation awards.

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident on or after 31st May 2021, there are some important points to consider when working out the likely value of your claim, and deciding whether to instruct a solicitor to represent you.

Vulnerable road users are excluded from the Official Injury Claims portal

This means if you were a pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist, wheelchair user, mobility scooter user, horse rider, using a scooter or e-scooter, these new rules do not apply to you. The official injury claims portal is not suitable for this type of claim and you should seek independent legal advice.

Children and protected parties are excluded from the Official Injury Claims portal

In order to protect children and protected parties (those that lack the capacity to conduct legal proceedings), their claims are excluded from the Official Injury Claims portal. The whiplash tariffs do still apply, but legal costs can be recovered from the at fault insurer.

The Official Injury Claims portal is only suitable for injury claims valued at up to £5,000, or with a total value up to £10,000

The OIC portal is only designed for ‘small claims’, which is the term used for claims for personal injuries valued at less than £5,000. If you have only suffered whiplash injuries then it is more than likely that your claim will fall into this category. However, if you have suffered multiple injuries which are more severe, or you have a high value claim for financial losses, your potential claim value may be over this limit and therefore not suitable for the process.

Not all injuries are tariff based

The new tariff based awards only apply to whiplash injuries and minor psychological injuries. Whiplash basically means a soft tissue injury (to your muscle, tendons or ligaments) which has caused symptoms to your neck, back or shoulder. A minor psychological injury could include travel anxiety, but would not include more serious conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder. Such a condition would need to be diagnosed by a psychological expert, such as a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.

You can claim for non-whiplash injuries too

If you have suffered an injury to a different area of your body, or a different type of injury, such as a broken bone, tinnitus, or concussion, you can claim for these symptoms too. They are valued using the Judicial College Guidelines, which tend to attract much higher than the fixed tariffs.

Unfortunately there is still little guidance in relation to ‘mixed injuries’, where both whiplash and non-whiplash symptoms are present, and decisions from the senior courts are awaited.

The level of the tariff based award depends on how long your symptoms last

The new tariff has significantly reduced compensation for occupants of motor vehicles and starts from as little as £240, however this does increase if your symptoms are prolonged. The highest tariff based award is £4,345 for symptoms lasting (or those that are expected to last, as per the prognosis of a medical expert), between 18 months and 24 months.

You may be entitled to an uplift (increased award)

Where you have a whiplash injury (with or without minor psychological injury), you may be entitled to an uplift of up to 20% of the tariff sum, if your symptoms are considered exceptional. You should explain why you think your injury is exceptional to your medical expert, who will comment on the issue. To be exceptional the injury must be exceptionally severe and/or your circumstances have increased your suffering as a result of the whiplash injury (and those circumstances are exceptional). There is no explanation given as to what might fall into this category as of yet, so each case will need to be considered carefully.

You can claim for financial losses

Although your personal injuries might be most apparent soon after the accident, you will likely have other losses to claim, such as vehicle repairs and hire, loss of earnings, treatment costs, travel expenses, and the cost of medication. This can all be included as part of your claim, but ensure you keep detailed receipts and invoices.

If you have already started your claim alone, it’s not too late to seek independent legal advice

You may have started your claim on your own, either directly with the at fault insurer or using the Official Injury Claim website, but then find you would prefer legal representation, for example if your injuries last longer than expected. If this happens you should contact a solicitor for advice. They will need all documentation relating to your claim so that they are fully in the picture.

The general rule is that you have three years to make a claim

It is best to start your claim as soon as possible, but, for the majority of personal injury claims arising out of an accident in England and Wales, you do have three years to issue your claim at court. There are some exceptions so it is always best to seek legal advice.

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident, either before or after 31st May 2021, contact our experienced team of specialists on 0161 696 6235 to see if we can help on a no win no fee basis.