It has been confirmed that the long awaited reforms to whiplash injuries, which were first proposed back in 2015, have been delayed by a month and will now come into force in May 2021.
This is the third time the reforms have been delayed. They were initially scheduled to come into effect in April 2020, before being pushed back to August 2020 and then April 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Below, we have outlined what the whiplash reforms are and how they will operate.
What do the whiplash reforms propose?
It is hoped that the reforms will result in reduced insurance costs for ordinary motorists.
Whiplash claims portal
A significant element of the whiplash reforms is the introduction of an online portal, which allows an injured person to lodge their own claim electronically,
The portal is being developed in conjunction with the insurance industry.
Whiplash compensation tariffs
Another substantial element of the reforms is the roll-out of a new system of tariffs which will decide how much an injured person (with whiplash injuries which last less than two years) can receive in compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity.
The tariffs significantly limit the compensation amounts being awarded to claimants under the current system.
Small claims track limit
A further element is an increase in the small claims track limit, which will increase from £1,000 to £5,000 for RTA claims and £2,000 for other personal injury claims.
Currently an injury must be valued at no less than £1,000 in order to warrant the instruction of a solicitor, as if the value is less than £1,000, you are not entitled to recover legal costs from your opponent. Any claim in excess of £1,000 is submitted, electronically, to the defendant’s insurer, via the Ministry of Justice’s portal and, where liability is admitted and it remains in the portal, fixed costs are paid.
Under the reforms, an injury arising from a RTA must be valued at no less than £5,000 in order for a claimant to pursue a claim with the assistance of a specialist personal injury solicitor. There are concerns that a lack of specialist support and advice from a solicitor will limit access to justice for those who are injured through no fault of their own.
It appears most likely that following the implementation of the reforms that a high amount of whiplash claims will fall below the new small claims track limit. A person who sustains a whiplash injury as a result of a RTA, and who wishes to seek compensation, will be required to manage their own claim without assistance from a personal injury solicitor. This is despite the matters often being complex, and the insurance industry (effectively their opponent) having full experience in the field.
Any compensation awarded is also likely to be much lower due to the new tariffs being rolled out. Many claimant solicitors see it as a further restriction to access to justice, and a further blow for claimants.
If you have any questions in relation to the topics discussed in this article, please contact Julie or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.