If you need to make a claim for a personal injury following a road traffic accident, you might not be aware that the claims process for some claims changed earlier in the year. It helps to understand what changes have come into effect and what impact they have on you if you’re considering making a claim or have recently decided to make one. The changes affect the whole country including personal injury claims Preston-wide.
After being delayed several times, the changes came into effect on 31st May and affect claims relating to low-value injuries from road traffic accidents. Claims for accidents that happened before 31st May 2021 are unaffected. These reforms impact the amount of compensation available for certain claims including whiplash injuries that last up to two years. These changes are commonly known as the Whiplash Reforms.
The purpose of these reforms is to reduce the number of fraudulent claims being made. However, the changes have raised some concerns, including with The Law Society. It’s important to note that claims involving children are not affected by the changes.
What are the major changes?
The limit for small claims has risen from £1,000 to £5,000. This means that more personal injury claims for low-value injuries caused by road traffic accidents are now considered to be small claims. An important point here is that claimants need to pay their own legal costs if they’re making a small claim.
Another significant change is a new fixed tariff scheme for whiplash injuries. Claimants with whiplash injuries now receive a fixed amount depending on how long the injury has lasted. These new fixed amounts are lower than what past claims would have received. The new fixed tariff scheme relies solely on the length of time that the injuries last for. An uplift is included if the whiplash injuries are accompanied by anxiety about travel.
A new online portal for whiplash claims has now been introduced for claimants to pursue their own claim. This is adjacent to the existing portal that is currently used by legal professionals pursuing claims on behalf of clients.
What do the reforms mean for personal injury claimants?
With more personal injury cases now being considered as small claims, it means that a greater number of claimants are unable to claim for their legal costs. Many could find that using the online portal is the only way they are able to pursue their claim. In addition, claimants for whiplash injuries can expect to receive lower amounts of compensation than they would have done before 31st May.
What do the reforms mean for personal injury solicitors?
For legal firms that specialise in low-value personal injury claims, these new changes are concerning. Because claimants are not able to recover the cost of their legal fees, many people are likely to choose to pursue their claim without legal representation. Solicitors who specialise in low-value personal injury claims may now need to diversify or adjust their business model to adapt to the new rules. Law firms who represent claimants for the affected claims also need to register with the new online portal in order to continue pursuing claims.
The Law Society
The Law Society contacted the Ministry of Justice in March 2021 to outline their concerns about the proposed reforms. Key concerns that the Society has, include concerns about mixed claims that include whiplash as well as other injuries and related concerns about moving data between the two different online portals. Concerns have also been raised about the risk of duplicate claims and inconsistencies and how the impact of the reforms is going to be evaluated.