The 2021 whiplash reforms are changes relating to personal injury claims for road traffic accidents (RTAs). But before delving into what exactly are the whiplash reforms and how they might affect your claim let us first define what counts as a whiplash injury under the new reform.

What is a whiplash injury?
A “whiplash injury” is defined by the Act 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.” The definition does not include “an injury of soft tissue which is a part of or connected to another injury and the other injury is not an injury of soft tissue in the neck, back or shoulder”. For example, if you have a broken arm, some soft tissue damage is bound to happen in or around that area, however, it would not be considered to be a whiplash injury.

What are the whiplash reforms?
The reforms are a collection of carefully chosen measures put in place by the Government to redesign the way “low-value personal injury claims,” that emerge from road traffic accidents, are currently administered. Insurance companies have, for the longest time, been lobbying for adjustments to the conventional ways these claims were being processed because the insurance companies were convinced the reforms to the current process would minimise the volume of low-value claims they received. Consecutively, it is expected that the savings made by insurers will help scale down the insurance premiums for motorists.

If you are unaware of how they might affect you or your client, here are a few things you should know:

If the following circumstances are met then this new reform will influence your claim:

  • age over 18
  • injured in a road traffic accident
  • accident occurred on or after 31st of May 2021
  • endured whiplash injuries
  • were a driver or a passenger of a motor vehicle (not included are motorbikes and scooters)
  • injuries are worth less than £5000 and the total value of your claim is less than £10000

Changes that will affect you:

  • Claims will have to be made through a new Official Injury Claim portal
  • Whiplash injuries will be evaluated on the authority of a fixed tariff
  • Legal fees or costs will not be incorporated in your claim
  • Instructing solicitors or engaging any legal representation to assist you in bringing your claim cannot occur
  • Propositions to settle a claim cannot be made before a medical report has been obtained

The Official Injury Claims portal, which is an online system, has been established to give authorization to claimants who are filing their claims without legal representation. On the portal you can schedule medical evidence, handover details of your claim, and additionally be in contact with the motor insurers you are filling the claim from. There is a provision for minor psychological injuries as well that is intended to compensate for such injuries.

Whiplash injuries experienced in other kinds of accidents such as non road traffic accidents do not come under the new 2021 whiplash reforms which only have relevance to road traffic accidents. Additionally, personal injury claims of road traffic accidents made by a pedestrian, a cyclist, a motorcyclist, or a rider of a scooter are not affected by these new reforms so if you were injured in a road accident then your claim will not be affected by these changes.

The following tariffs will be used to value whiplash injuries, introduced under the new reforms, and are based on how long the injury lasted and if there are psychological symptoms accompanying the injury:

Duration of Injury Amount-Regulation 2(l)(a) Amount-Regulation 2(l)(a)
Not more than 3 months £240 £260
More than 3 months, but not more than 6 months £495 £520
More than 6 months, but not more than 9 months £840 £895
More than 9 months, but not more than 12 months £1,320 £1,390
More Than 12 months, but not more than 15 months £2,040 £2,125
More than 15 months, but not more than 18 months £3,005 £3,100
More than 18 months, but not more than 24 months £4,215 £4,345

However, there are several concerns that claimants and solicitors have regarding these new reforms:

  • There is ambiguity in reference to mixed claims, since there is no clarity on how claims will be evaluated when claimants have suffered a tariff and a non tariff injury.
  • The details are hazy as to which conditions a judge would consider eligible for a discretionary 20% uplift to the tariff.
  • There is concern about security regarding transfer of data from the current claims portal used by the solicitors and the new Online Injury Claims portal.
  • The new tariffs may cause more personal injury cases to be processed as small claims, which would lead claimants to not seek a solicitor as they will be unlikely to recover their legal costs.
  • Solicitors may have to revise their business models to adapt to the new changes to stay relevant within the market.
  • Those solicitors that represent claimants for claims under £10000 would need to register on the online portal. If you are a solicitor you can follow the steps to register provided at Claimant representatives | Official Injury Claim