Catherine Hyde of Coodes Solicitors’ Personal Injury team comments on how proposed reforms to claims for whiplash, from 1st October 2018, could impact on the victims of road traffic accidents.
The UK Government has reviewed its findings from the first part of its consultation on claims for soft tissue injury, often called whiplash. This neck injury typically occurs when the head is suddenly thrown forwards, backwards or sideways during an accident. As well as causing neck pain and stiffness, it can lead to headaches, pain in the shoulders or arms and sometimes memory loss, tiredness and poor concentration.
The reason for the consultation is the view that a number of whiplash injury claims are thought to be exaggerated or fraudulent. The Government has said that cracking down on these claims will save motorists money, by reducing their motor insurance premiums.
Part 1 of the consultation has now been announced with Part 2 taking place ‘in due course’ The measures due to be taken forward from 1st October 2018 are:
1.Less compensation for a minor whiplash injury
The Government has announced a fixed tariff system which will significantly reduce the amount of compensation for a minor whiplash injury. While the average payment for a minor whiplash injury is now £1,850, in the future under the proposed fixed tariff system, the minimum is likely to be in the region of £255 for up to three months pain, suffering and loss of amenity.
People seeking compensation for whiplash injuries should obtain a medical report. This can be quite a detailed account, outlining the recommended recovery period. It will also determine the amount of compensation you should receive under the proposed fixed tariff. We already advise clients to obtain a full medical report as without having these reports, victims of these injuries may not realise the extent to which they have been affected. This means they may not therefore give themselves adequate recovery time or seek medical help. As part of the report, claimants are often referred to physiotherapy but without going through a claim they may not be aware that this is an option that can speed up their recovery.
3.No early offers
The government will prohibit personal injury lawyers from making early offers to settle claims for a smaller amount without medical evidence. Though this is often tempting to the claimant, they may actually be entitled to much more for their injury. This is a good move and will help to limit the number of fraudulent claims.
4.An increase in the small claims limit
The small claims limit will be raised in line with inflation from £1,000 to £5,000 for Road Traffic Accident claims and from £1,000 to £2,000 for other personal injury claims. This proposal has proved controversial with some MPs and with the legal profession.
Just how these changes will come into effect is still unclear. Until the changes are implemented on 1 October 2018 people can continue to seek legal advice in the same way to make claims for soft tissue injuries. When the changes come into effect, you will still be able to claim compensation for any other injuries, such as fractures, which you have suffered alongside whiplash.
Whatever the final outcome, it is important to take whiplash injuries seriously and to ensure that you seek prompt medical help following a road traffic accident or any other personal injury. If you are considering pursing a claim we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.
For advice on any of these issues, please contact Catherine Hyde of the Personal Injury team at Coodes Solicitors on 01326 214032 or firstname.lastname@example.org