On 31st May 2021, the government launched a new system for claiming compensation for soft tissue injuries ‘whiplash’ caused as a result of a road traffic accident occurring on or after this date.
If a soft tissue injury claim is worth less than £5,000 claimants must apply for compensation themselves through an online portal without the representation of a solicitor. A limited fixed tariff for compensation for soft tissue injuries now applies.
There is a 64-page guide to assist anyone navigating the online Official Injury Claim portal, developed on behalf of the Ministry of Justice by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).
Several groups have voiced concerns that injured people will not be represented and will be left without proper access to justice.
Some may decide not to submit a claim at all as the process is far from simple, meaning they will not receive compensation for injuries which were not their fault.
The rules prior to 31st May entitled a claimant to instruct a solicitor where the level of damages for personal injury exceeded £1,000. Although fixed costs applied, your solicitor would submit the claim on your behalf, collate the medical and other evidence and liaise with insurance companies and their appointed solicitors, calculate claims for damages, complete paperwork, check legal documents, and prepare documentation for court as well as negotiating settlement with the defendant.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) which represents injured people has criticised the new system.
In a letter to the press, written this weekend, Sam Elsby, immediate past president of APIL said: “The new rigid and derisory levels of compensation for whiplash injuries have nothing to do with putting injured people at the heart of the legal process.
“Instead, these changes are a cynical attempt to curtail access to justice while saving money for fat-cat insurance companies. Figures used to try to justify the new measures are nine years old and pre-date previous reforms, since when the cost of claims to insurers has fallen dramatically. Insurers’ failure to pass on savings made during the pandemic demonstrates further how consumers are unlikely to benefit from lower premiums from what is fundamentally a reduction in insurance cover. Last year the cost of injury, claims to car insurers fell by almost a quarter while the cost of premiums fell by just eight per cent.
“Furthermore, the insurance industry has suggested that it considers all whiplash claims to be “exaggerated” in some way. It is an insult to the vast majority of people who need to claim compensation because they are suffering genuine injuries, which should never have happened in the first place.
“People do not realise the importance of compensation until they are injured. It is only then when they will realise that this is no victory for consumers.”
The government claims drivers could see a £35 per year reduction in car insurance premiums because of the new system. As the number of road traffic accidents reduced by a quarter during the pandemic and insurers failed to pass on the same savings to motorists, we are sceptical that the £35 reduction will be offered to all motorists.
There are also concerns that the new portal does not cover claimants with several injuries, known as hybrid cases.
There is currently no provision on the portal to claim for different types of injury which can often happen after a road traffic accident. It will be left to the courts to decide on how cases with hybrid injuries are assessed, and a judge will decide the outcome of these cases.
View the new tariff which shows the base level compensation for various injuries here
NV Legal has a dedicated team of solicitors experienced in dealing with road traffic accidents. If you or someone you know has been affected by these issues, contact us.
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