Legislation to implement the Government’s much-heralded whiplash reforms comes into force on 31 May 2021, which sets limits on the amount of compensation that can be claimed for soft tissue injuries suffered in road traffic accidents.

Therese Classon, a Partner in the Personal Injury law team at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, explains the implications of the new rules for anyone who suffers a whiplash injury and their route to starting a compensation claim.

What is whiplash?

A whiplash injury is defined by the Civil Liability Act 2018 as ‘an 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’.

Such an injury usually arises as a result of a road traffic accident. The impact of a crash forces the head to move suddenly while the body is held in place by your seatbelt. This movement puts pressure on the tendons and ligaments in your neck, causing them to overstretch.

The symptoms of whiplash include soreness in the neck, reduced movement, dizziness, headaches, and pain in other parts of your body such as arms, shoulders and back. Longevity of such symptoms ranges from days to several months, with whiplash causing a permanent disability in two per cent of cases.

The new Whiplash Injury Regulations 2021 set the new limit for compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity that can be claimed for soft tissue injuries suffered in road traffic accidents, at £240 for injuries that last less than three months, rising incrementally to £4,215 for injuries that last between 18 and 24 months.

A small uplift can be claimed where the whiplash sufferer also experiences ‘minor’ psychological injuries as a result of the crash. Where a person suffers more than one whiplash injury through the same accident, the injury with the longest duration will apply.

The new rules also allow compensation to be increased by up to 20 per cent in ‘exceptional circumstances’ where a court decides that compensation should be greater than the tariff allows. This would apply if the court feels that the whiplash injury is ‘exceptionally severe’ or where the person’s circumstances increase the pain, suffering or loss of amenity.

The new rules stipulate that a whiplash claim cannot be settled, or an offer or payment made, without the compensator (for example, an insurer) seeing a medical report on the whiplash injury.

A new portal designed to allow unrepresented claimants to handle their own claims has been created as part of the reforms, with insurers paying compensation based on the fixed tariff. All road traffic accident claims worth less than £5,000 will go through the portal and any legal costs incurred will not be recoverable.

However, claims for complicated injuries, or where compensation is expected to be of more that £5,000, will still go via the court process. Legal advice is imperative to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.

For more information on whiplash claims, or any other personal injury issue, contact Therese Classon, a Partner in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team on 01626 202328 or email thereseclasson@wbw.co.uk. WBW Solicitors has nine offices across the South West in Newton Abbot, Bovey Tracey, Torquay, Paignton, Exeter, Launceston, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Honiton.

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.