Whiplash reforms. What you need to know.
1 April 2021 by Joe Sandercock
Reforms to the personal injury claims process are due to be implemented in May 2021. The changes will impact the amount of compensation claimants receive, include tariffs for some road traffic accidents and an increase in the small claims limit, with claimants in most cases having to pay their own legal costs, even if successful. Designed to reduce fraudulent claims, will the new measures penalise the wrong people? And how can a Solicitor help? Following on from this week’s Law Society Solicitor Chat, Joe Sandercock from FJG’s Dispute Resolution team has provided some answers to a few frequently asked questions around this topic.
Will the new whiplash reforms have any impact on my current claim?
No – for existing road traffic accidents started before 31st May 2021, these will be unaffected and the Small Claims Track limit for existing RTA claims will remain set at £1,000. For new whiplash claims, these will be subject to a new limit of £5,000.
What in practical terms could the new Official Injury Claim portal mean for me if I need to make a claim?
The amount of compensation that a Claimant can recover from the other party is set by tariffs so the Judicial College Guidelines will no longer apply to whiplash claims. The tariffs have the effect of hugely reducing the amount of compensation that you can recover and compensation sums are set by recovery periods. The periods range from 3 to 24 months in duration. A Claimant can also seek a 20% uplift on a tariff in “exceptional circumstances” such as severe pain.
What cost will this represent to access to justice?
The idea is that clients can use the Official Injury Claim portal themselves so hopefully, access to justice would be maintained. However, the Solicitor-client would no longer exist and clients may run into difficulties dealing with the case when it reaches the stage of litigation.
Are there any circumstance where my legal costs would be recoverable if I need help from a Solicitor and my claim is successful?
The usual Small Claims limit on costs would apply. So if the other party is found by the Court to have conducted themselves unreasonably, then there would be scope for costs recovery.
What factors determine the compensation awarded if the claimant suffers both a whiplash and non-whiplash injury?
The whiplash elements will be calculated by reference to the tariff, whereas the non-whiplash elements will continue to be calculated by reference to case law and the Judicial College Guidelines. So far, this has been untested in the Courts so it is awaited how the Courts will deal with cases where there are both whiplash and non-whiplash injuries.
Would the cause of injury influence the amount of compensation I can be awarded for a whiplash injury?
The cause of injury would be a straightforward rear-shunt in a road traffic accident which would result in whiplash. So a sum for compensation would be calculated accordingly.