If you’re in the process of starting to make or making a compensation claim for a traffic accident that resulted in whiplash, then it’s good to know about the latest whiplash regulations from 2021 and how they will affect your claims – for the better or the worse.
We should make it clear at this point that Romain Coleman Solicitors are here to help you with serious and critical injury claims. While whiplash can certainly cause short term concerns and complications later on, we work with clients to pursue claims based on the more serious injuries that result from car accidents, rather than whiplash alone. Also, as you’ll see from the following article, new regulations and the lower sums involved mean it less likely that claimants can use legal representation and will be forced down the small claims track or use of the online claims portal.
These new rules will have an affect on how much money you can claim from whiplash injuries. Both good and bad has surrounded the Whiplash Injury Regulations 2021 that come into place on 31st May 2021. The good news for claimants is that the minimum payments for whiplash claims are due to increase over the old guidelines, and the new approach looks to make claims move much more smoothly.
However, there are also worries that these new changes are going cause problems that could actually hamper the whole process – with claimants being the ones who will be left to suffer. We’re here to give you a rundown of what these new regulations bring to the table, what difficulties may lay ahead and how they could affect your whiplash claim going forward.
As the name suggests, this is when your body (specifically your neck) is whipped back-and-forth from its natural position. This is something that can, of course, happen during car accidents – mostly if a person has been rear-ended – but it can also happen if you have a fall, a sporting accident or have been physically attacked.
Symptoms can often range from pain and stiffness in the neck area to headaches, fatigue, dizziness, tinnitus and many other related conditions. Generally, people can expect to get better in just a few weeks but this isn’t always the case. The effects of the injury can hurt someone for months or even years, possibly causing even chronic pain and permanent changes to a person’s lifestyle.
Over half a million people make a compensation claim for whiplash in the UK each year. You have three years from the incident to make a claim on a whiplash injury and you can even claim on behalf of any kids who were also involved in the accident too. Additionally, passengers can also make a claim. You needn’t worry about this necessarily ruining friendships either as the insurance company will pay on behalf of them.
The main purpose of compensation claims are to compensate you for time off work, any discomfort you may have experienced and any medical bills. It’s all about gathering evidence to present a case so it certainly helps for you to take your own photos of an incident or even take the names of witnesses who may be able to help your claim.
Due to the high amount of people making whiplash personal injury compensation claims every year, it’s a market saturated with questionable claims management companies (CMCs). Legislation was introduced in 2018 to try and stymie many unscrupulous CMCs who were not above getting claimants to exaggerate their injuries.
You may be offered an out-of-court settlement by the insurers of those responsible for the accident which you can choose to accept or turn down which will, of course, pave the way for a court decision. However, things can get tricker if the other party was not insured or could not be found. In this instance, you may be able to get compensation from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).
The size of the compensation you can be rewarded really does depend on the effect that accident had on your life. On average, before these new guidelines, the payout was generally somewhere between £1,000 and £3,000. However, it’s not unheard for there to be close to six figure payouts if the injury and its after-effects have been quite severe.
The new regulations changed not only the amount of money that can be claimed as part of the whiplash portion of any compensation, but also changed the way in which cases are handled. These changes were welcome on many levels not just because they are, overall, positive for the claimants, but because they change the whole process and even make it possible, in less severe cases of whiplash, to consider taking a route that requires no legal representation or fees.
For example, there has been an increase in the small claims track (SCT) limit from traffic accidents to £5,000; previously, it had been just £1,000. A tariff has also been implemented that means that the maximum that can be claimed for an injury that lasts less than three months is £240. This scales all the way up to injuries lasting up to 24 months where the maximum tariff is £4,215.
While this may not seem like great news – as it was not uncommon for some whiplash claims to offer double that maximum tariff – it means that whiplash claims are going to be less attractive to predatory claims management companies as the tariff will not be payable by the defendant.
There is, however, a 20% tariff uplift in play for any case meeting certain circumstances where there has been a high amount of suffering or pain incurred. It should be noted that there are some methods of transport that are not subject to these new SCT limits – primarily cyclists, pedestrians, children and motorcyclists.
Additionally, the reforms also save motorists across England and Wales approximately £35/year on their insurance premiums. This is thanks to the savings created from these changes which are thought to total close to £1.2 billion.
Lastly, as aforementioned, there is now a route for claimants without legal representation. While it is still advisable to seek legal support in more complex personal injury cases involving vehicle accidents, an area Romain Coleman specialises in and has successfully assisted claimants with, many people will be able to make use of an online portal that is simple for users to navigate. This not only saves the hassle and cost of organising legal support, it reduces the need for court appearances and removes the loss of any compensation to CMC fees.
One final plus point is that you can expect to receive less nuisance calls from firms looking to help you claim for whiplash on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis!
There are, however, some concerns about this new system and how it may affect both claimants and legal representation. Many of these concerns relate to the online system itself and its ability to cope with the possible demand from whiplash claims. While there is an expectation that less claims will be made, problems with the system could drive people to continue using CMCs to check claims.
There have been concerns that a lack of testing on the system could cause problems and lead to delays for claimants. Some industry figures have criticised the portal, and the documentation surrounding it, as being too complex for most users. While a helpline will be in place to deal with problems, this is also lacking in any rigorous testing.
Additionally, there is a worry that some claimants may end up with less than they expected. As we previously mentioned, claims that would have been able to provide damages worth up to £7,000 prior to the guidelines are now worth just over £4,000. Granted, the lack of need for legal representation means you don’t need to spend money paying fees, and the time saved by itself is worth some money too, but it nevertheless casts doubt over the system.
It’s clear that while the new system is for less serious whiplash injuries is looking like it could potentially end up being a win for insurance consumers and most whiplash claimants. Our suggestion then, is that for less serious cases involving whiplash only, is to pursue the small claims track and the online portal.
However, if you have a more serious personal injury as a result of a car accident, such as a head injury, damage to your back, legs or arms, don’t waste time – get in touch with the Romain Coleman professional claims advice team right away on 0208 520 4555.
Serving the whole of the UK, they can talk you through your options, what the next best step is for you, help you gather evidence and even represent you in the courtroom. We know how traumatic the experience of a car accident can be and you can rest assured that we will not give up on you as we seek to have justice served in your favour.