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New ‘Whiplash Reforms’ – what are they and how will they affect personal injury claims?

There are important new rules that will apply to personal injury claims arising from road accidents that occur on or after 31 May 2021.

These are the so-called “Whiplash Reforms”.

For an injured party, where the new rules apply, it will have a number of consequences upon their claim:-

  • A rise in the Small Claims Limit from £1,000 to £5,000 in road accident cases where the new rules apply. This means where a case falls within the new rules, an injured party will not be able to recover legal fees from the negligent party.
  • A New Fixed Tariff will apply to damages recoverable for whiplash injuries, or whiplash injury with minor psychological injury, up to two years in duration.
  • The parties will be prohibited from making settlement offers in respect of whiplash injuries prior to the insurer having sight of an independent medical report evidencing the injury suffered.

The new rules impose an increase in the small claims limit and a decrease in the amount of damages recoverable for whiplash injuries.

Who do the new rules apply to?

Probably the best way to deal with this is to say “Who does they not apply to?”

Firstly, it is important to note that the new rules do not apply to injuries that have been caused in non-road accident cases. Therefore, for injuries arising from employer’s liability; or those cases involving public or occupier liability, the small claim limit remains at £1,000 and damages for injury will be assessed in the usual way.  This will also apply to road accidents that have occurred before 31 May 2021.

The new rules will not apply to the following:-

  • Children
  • Protected parties

When the road accident happened the claimant was –

  • Using a motorcycle
  • A pillion passenger on a motorcycle or in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle
  • Using a bicycle or other pedal cycle
  • A pedestrian
  • Using a wheelchair, powered wheelchair or mobility scooter
  • Riding a horse

Where on the date that proceedings are started –

  • The claimant is an undischarged bankrupt; or
  • The claimant or defendant acts as a personal representative of a deceased person
  • On the date the accident occurred, the defendant’s vehicle was registered outside the United Kingdom

It is also worth noting that if you are involved in a road traffic accident and you do not fall within the above exceptions, your case may not fall within a Small Claim if your injuries do not fall within the definition of a “whiplash injury” and those injuries are likely to be valued more than £5,000.

The operation of the new rules is quite complex due to the number of exclusions and the different small claims limits for different accident types.   It therefore essential that following an accident you take early independent legal advice to ensure your claim is correctly identified and that you recover the appropriate level of damages having regards to the circumstances of your individual case.

If you would like help on this area of law or legal advice on the issues raised, please contact Angela Carnell, Associate Solicitor, in our Accident and Injury team on 01454 204880 or at angela.carnell@wards.uk.com

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