The Government’s much-heralded reforms to the whiplash compensation claims process have become the latest victim of the coronavirus pandemic, with the planned launch now delayed for a year until April 2021.

Therese Classon, personal injury law solicitor at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, outlines what the planned changes will mean for claimants who have suffered a whiplash injury – and explains why you should start your whiplash claim before the reforms are implemented.

The Government has introduced a package of measures to reform the way low-value personal injury claims arising from road traffic accidents are handled, with the ultimate aim being to ‘reduce insurance costs for ordinary motorists by tackling the continuing high number and cost of whiplash claims’.

Introduced by the Civil Liability Act 2018, the reforms will:
• see a new legal definition of what constitutes a whiplash injury;
• introduce a tariff of fixed compensation for whiplash injuries of up to two years; and
• place a ban on making offers or settling whiplash claims without medical evidence.

Probably the most radical and unwelcome change as far as potential claimants are concerned is the plan to increase the small claims limit to £5,000 for road traffic accident claims.

This will mean that, if a claimant takes on a legal representative to make a personal injury claim below £5,000, they will not be allowed to recover their legal fees from the compensating insurer.

Given this will mean that many whiplash claim victims will be left without legal representation, the government has given the Motor Insurers Bureau the task of creating a claims portal to make it easier for those who are forced to handle their own claims.

To make the portal work effectively, tariff levels need to be set and changes made to the civil procedure rules; this process has been scuppered somewhat by the coronavirus pandemic – hence the delay in implementing the changes. The government says the further delay will also allow affected sectors to concentrate their energies on delivering their response to the virus and enable the Government to focus on maintaining key services in the justice area.

The new claims portal will run in a similar way to, but separately from, the existing claims portal which is used for higher-value (fast track) claims. It will be available both to individuals who bring their own road traffic accident personal injury claim and to organisations which bring a claim on an individual’s behalf. A contact centre service for those who do not have access to, or cannot use, the digital service is also planned.

Although you generally have three years from the date of your road traffic accident to bring a compensation claim for your whiplash injuries, you are strongly advised to launch your claim before the whiplash reform programme is unleashed next April.

This will allow you to get legal help with your claim rather than having to tackle what can be a daunting process on your own. Our specialist personal injury lawyers can guide you through the claims process, help you to amass the evidence to provide you with the strongest case possible, and negotiate with the other party to win you the compensation you deserve.

The compensation you receive depends on how serious your whiplash injury is, your prognosis and how it has affected your life, but could include damages for:
• pain and suffering;
• loss of earnings;
• additional medical treatment or rehabilitation;
• out-of-pocket expenses; and
• adaptations required to your home.

For further information, please contact Therese Classon in the personal injury law team on 01626 202328 or email thereseclasson@wbw.co.uk. WBW Solicitors has offices in Newton Abbot, Torquay, Paignton, Bovey Tracey, Exeter, Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton and Launceston.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.