Whiplash reforms a pain in the neck for victims
Two and a half years since they were introduced, changes to legislation relating to whiplash injuries appear to have benefited only the insurance companies and are failing the victims and all motorists, suggests Personal Injury experts Armstrong Luty Solicitors.
From 31st of May 2021 the Government introduced a fixed tariff award for compensation for this form of injury which has impacted considerably on the financial remuneration for many victims who might otherwise have been awarded more realistic compensation.
For the purposes of insurance claims, the definition of a whiplash injury is damage to soft tissue in the neck, back or shoulder consisting of a sprain, strain, tear, rupture or lesser harm to a muscle tendon or ligament that does not take more than 2 years to recover. It applies to a person suffering such an injury whilst being carried in a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, with a small number of exceptions.
The reforms introduced a fixed tariff award table setting compensation for whiplash injuries and linked minor psychological injuries based on the recovery period, so for a recovery period within 3 months, for example, the award is limited to just £240 and if recovery takes up to two years, it increases to £4215 with some limited scope for a maximum of 20% more in ‘exceptional cases’,
The insurance company do not have to pay anything towards solicitors’ charges. This means a victim with a whiplash injury now receives, compared to the position before the introduction of these reforms, a relatively paltry award and nothing towards their legal costs.
The Government’s Ministry of Justice presented these changes in 2021 on the premise that they would ostensibly produce savings of over £1billion. A new user-friendly online claims’ portal would simplify the claims process and, we were told, insurers had “pledged” to pass on the savings from the reforms with car insurance premiums for each motorist “expected to be slashed by around £35 a year”.
Not surprisingly, two and half years on, the reality is that the reforms have left injured parties significantly worse off. At the same time, according to the Office for National Statistics, motor insurance policies have increased by 19%.
Far from helping claimants the new online system is too difficult for many claimants to circumnavigate. Only 9% of claimants have managed it without the legal assistance it was purported to eliminate.
The conclusion is that the only beneficiaries are the motor insurers who are no doubt delighted in the significant decrease in compensation pay-outs with the cost of injury claims to insurers reduced significantly.