Long-awaited ‘whiplash reforms’ came into force from 31 May 2021

Reforms to the whiplash claims process for road traffic accidents have come into force from the 31 May 2021

Long awaited ‘whiplash reforms’ came into force from 31 May 2021

What just happened?

Reforms to the whiplash claims process for road traffic accidents have come into force from the 31 May 2021.[1]

What does this mean?

The divisive reforms, forming a part of the Civil Liability Act 2018 are intended to reduce the number of whiplash claims arising from road traffic accidents.  The reforms will be a massive overhaul of the current system and their introduction has already been delayed various times. This is in addition to the changes made in the early years of the 2010s.

The main changes to be implemented are as follows:

  • Introduction of tariffs for damages; ‘There will now be two tariffs: a combined upper one under Reg. 2(1)(b) to include whiplash and minor psychological injuries (not defined) and a simple lower one under Reg. 2(1)(a) where there is no psychological injury.’[2]
  • the small claims limit rising from £1,000 to £5,000 for road traffic accidents not including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists who are excluded from the provisions
  • MIB to introduce an online RTA claims portal for claimants to pursue their claims directly

While these changes will greatly benefit the prospering insurance industry, it limits the overall compensation which can be claimed for those who are genuinely injured. It can be argued that it compartmentalizes injuries, without consideration to the individual impact it can have on a claimant. For example, where a claimant suffers a 3-month neck or back whiplash injury, under the proposed tariff limits compensation for such injuries would be reduced to £275.00. Whereas such claims are currently valued between £1500.00 and £1800.00. [3]

How does this impact the legal sector?

As the above implies although the amendments will improve the system for insurers, it will drastically limit the number of claims that personal injury solicitors can deal with as well as making the claims process more difficult and less fruitful for injured parties.

Therefore, the previous delays to the changes had been welcomed by solicitors who maintain that they still need time to adjust their processes to ensure that they are ready for the changes.[4] Importantly, once the reforms are implemented solicitors will no longer be able to recover their costs from the Defendant representatives for small track claims. With low-value claims making up a large majority of claims in this field it may no longer be profitable for firms to stay open. With 13% of personal injury firms in England and Wales expected to close their doors following implementation of the reforms.[5]

Not only will this limit the number of firms who will look to make their services available but it may also dissuade claimants from seeking specialist legal advice due to the associated costs. This creates a concern that a lack of specialist support and advice will limit access to justice for those who are injured through no fault of their own. For example, litigants who are unqualified may be subject to a ‘lower than value’ offer or may not be able to effectively prove a claim when there is a liability dispute.

This coupled with the new tariffs may mean that claimants no longer look to pursue a claim despite sustaining injury in an accident due to a lack of claims knowledge and no specialist advice to guide them through the process.

To assist claimants, the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) are creating a portal for claimants to bring claims that fall under the new £5000.00 minimum threshold. Their aim is to create a portal to be launched in May 2021 making ‘the personal injury claim process simple, secure and unbiased so anyone can choose to make a claim without the requirement of legal assistance.’[6] However, there is little information on how the portal will actually operate so it is difficult to judge whether this will be an adequate replacement for a specialist solicitor. There are also concerns over access of the portal for those claimants who are not tech-savvy, limiting their access to justice should an alternative ‘offline’ method not be made available.[7]

Written by Gabriella Cinotti

The Legists Content Team

[1] Faye Fishlock, Andrew Parker and Joanna Folan ‘Whiplash Reforms to be implemented with effect from 31 May 2021 PART 1’ (dacbeachcroft, 25 February 2021) <www.dacbeachcroft.com/en/gb/articles/2021/february/whiplash-reforms-to-be-implemented-with-effect-fro

[2] Ibid

[3] Morrish Solicitors, Whiplash Reforms 2021 (Morrish Solicitors, 11 January 2021) <www.morrishsolicitors.com/whiplash-reforms-2021/> accessed 22 February 2021

[4] Neil Rose, Whiplash reforms delayed AGAIN - but only for a month this time (Legal Futures, 11 January 2021) <www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/whiplash-reforms-delayed-again-but-only-for-a-month-this-time> accessed 22 February 2021

[5] Brodies LLP, ‘Shunt forward for Whiplash Reforms in England and Wales’, (Brodies LLP, 10 January 2020) <https://brodies.com/insights/health-and-safety/shunt-forward-for-whiplash-reforms-in-england-and-wales/>

accessed 22 February 2021

[6] Official Injury Claim, ‘About us’ (Official Injury Claim) <www.officialinjuryclaim.org.uk/about/> accessed 22 February 2021

[7] Brodies LLP, ‘Shunt forward for Whiplash Reforms in England and Wales’, (Brodies LLP, 10 January 2020) <https://brodies.com/insights/health-and-safety/shunt-forward-for-whiplash-reforms-in-england-and-wales/>

accessed 22 February 2021

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