The first mention of any Small Claims reforms regarding Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs), including whiplash, began in 2015. Since then, it has seemingly never got off the ground. April 2019 was pushed to April 2020, then the global pandemic hit and pushed it once again to April 2021.
What’s the purpose of the reform?
The main aim of the reform was to stop fraudulent claims. The UK holds the rather unappealing title of Europe’s ‘whiplash capital’, but it’s no surprise when there are 1,500 whiplash claims made per day! This hefty number comes with a hefty sum for the insurance sector, nearly £2bn a year to be precise.
Not to mention that whiplash is one of the key causes for increased insurance rates, especially for young drivers. On average, adding £75 to the average annual premium with a huge jump for those aged 17-24 to £126.
The legislation therefore not only plans to deter fraud but should, in practice, save drivers money. Whether these savings will be passed onto the consumer is yet to be seen.
How would the reform change whiplash claims?
Under what is called the Civil Liability Act 2018, four key amends have been made when it comes to claiming compensation for whiplash:
- The definition of whiplash is now understood, by law, to be:
‘Injury of soft tissue in the neck, back or shoulder that is…a sprain, strain, tear, rupture or lesser damage of a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder, or an injury of soft tissue associated with a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder.’
- A ban on settlement without medical evidence, any reports must be presented prior to settlement
- A new compensation tariff for injuries sustained via whiplash which means, on average, claimants could lose out on nearly £3,500 for their claims compared to the current tariff in place
- The Small Claims Limit, which currently stands a £1,000 for Road Traffic Accidents, will be raised to £5,000. This however does not apply to vulnerable road users, such as children or pedestrians
Are there any problems with this new reform?
Like anything, there are still a few creases that need ironing out.
- At the moment, the legal definition of whiplash is simply too broad to fit with the current agreed medical definition
- The new tariff creates the risk of substantial loss for claimants which may deter those genuinely affected from proceeding with a claim
- With the new limit set for Small Claims, on the basis that a claimant was to win a case that was under the value of £5,000, they would not be able to claim back any legal costs. For many, this is simply not affordable and so huge numbers of claimants will be left to navigate the lengthy and complicated legal system without professional help and/or representation
Without legal cover, it is highly unlikely that many solicitors will undertake work of this nature, and the impact of access to justice is set to be huge. Moving forward to help with these issues, we would advise that everyone should now take out Legal Expense Insurance to assist them with these new reforms.
We understand how stressful it is if you or a loved one have been involved in a road traffic accident. It can be almost impossible to know where to start. And now with the new reforms looming on the horizon, all of which still have some confusing grey areas, the process may feel even more daunting. That’s where consulting us about your claim can really help unravel the intricacies of this complicated law, so please do come to us for advice.
If you have been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, we want to work with you in any which way possible to get you the compensation and peace of mind you deserve. Contact our experienced serious injuries team here to start your no-win, no-fee claim today.