What to know about making a whiplash claim

There are new rules in the UK.

Whiplash, an injury often associated with motor accidents, can range from mildly uncomfortable to very painful. If you’ve suffered one, you may be able to make a whiplash claim.

Unfortunately, whiplash has resulted in many fraudulent compensation claims, which has affected insurance premiums negatively. As a result, the UK government has recently announced new regulations for making these sorts of claims. We’ll take you through what the rules say and the steps you need to take to get compensated for your injury.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by your neck being forced forward and backward (or vice versa) in quick succession. According to the NHS, it can cause:

  • Neck pain 
  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty moving your head
  • Pain and muscle spasms in the shoulders and arms 

Other symptoms include dizziness, weakness in the legs, trouble sleeping, and travel anxiety.

Whiplash symptoms usually come on a few hours after injury (although this may be longer) and get better within about two to three months. Doctors can prescribe pain medication and/or refer you to a physiotherapist or pain specialist. As psychological effects often accompany whiplash, they may also refer you to a psychologist. 

Whiplash is closely associated with car accidents — and it’s not hard to see why. It’s estimated that as many as half of all car crashes in England lead to whiplash.

The good news is that there is compensation available if you’re able to follow the necessary steps.

Can you claim for whiplash?

The short answer is yes. It is possible to claim for whiplash if the cumulative cost of your injuries is not more than £5,000. You will make a claim to the insurance of the driver who was at fault — and this is possible whether you were the driver or the passenger. 

You can either make the claim yourself, directly to their insurance provider, or through a legal firm. 

If you go through a whiplash claim solicitor, they will likely operate on a no win, no fee basis, meaning you’ll only pay them if you are awarded compensation for your claim.

If you make the claim yourself, you have to do it through the Ministry of Justice’s Official Injury Claim portal. This portal allows you to:

  • Make an official claim
  • Submit proof of your injury
  • Communicate with the other party’s insurance

Because whiplash is difficult to assess, the claims process can be tricky. But if you are suffering, know that it is possible to get compensation if you meet the criteria for approval.

Recently, rules around whiplash claims have changed. Here’s what you need to know.

What are the new rules for whiplash compensation?

On 31 May 2021, the UK government instituted new legislation around making whiplash claims after road traffic accidents (RTA). This was done in an attempt to curb fraudulent claims and the costs that they result in. 

According to the new rules:

  • Compensation for whiplash injuries is now fixed in different tiers according to how severe and long-lasting the injury is. 
  • You can claim for injuries up to £5,000. (Small claims damages are those that don’t involve vast sums of money.)
  • You can no longer claim for legal costs related to your whiplash injury.
  • You can make a small claim for an RTA yourself online rather than having to go through a lawyer. 

It’s important to note that these new rules don’t apply to everyone. If you were walking or cycling at the time of the accident, for example, they are not relevant to you. If this is the case, you may be eligible for compensation under a different scheme. Head here for the government’s RTA claim form for RTA injury claims up to $25,000. (If you would like help with your claim, engaging the services of a no win, no fee solicitor can be helpful.)

What proof is needed for a whiplash claim?

You’ll need to prove that:

  • The accident wasn’t completely your fault
  • You are injured
  • Your injury is not connected to a previous injury that you had before your accident

To do this, you’ll have to provide a report from a certified medical professional showing that you have been examined. The Official Injury Claim department can help you do this once you’ve started your claim on the online portal. 

You’ll also need the following details:

  • The vehicles involved in the accident
  • Where the accident happened
  • When the accident happened
  • Who was responsible, as well as their details and the details of their insurer

If you do not know the insurer’s details or if the driver of the other vehicle was uninsured, you may be able to make a claim through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB)

How much compensation do you get for whiplash?

How much you are compensated for whiplash after an RTA depends on the duration of your injury. “Duration” refers to how long you suffer with your injury. If you have two separate whiplash injuries from the same accident, duration refers to the one that lasts the longest.

Compensation is then further divided into whiplash with and without mild psychological injury.

The government outlines the amount of compensation as follows:

Duration of injuryWhiplash onlyWhiplash and minor psychological injury
Up to 3 months£240£260
Between 3 and 6 months£495£520
Between 6 and 9 months£840£895
Between 9 and 12 months£1,320£1,390
Between 12 and 15 months£2,040£2,125
Between 15 and 18 months£3,005£3,100
Between 18 and 24 months£4,215£4,345

What is the average payout for whiplash in the UK?

As you can see from the table above, not all whiplash compensation payouts are created equal, and how much you get will depend on the nature of your injuries and how long they last. That being said, payouts are usually between £1,500 and £3,000.

If you have more serious injuries, such as a severe neck injury that causes permanent symptoms, you may be entitled to a higher amount that is not subject to the £5,000 cap.

How long does a whiplash claim take?

While most whiplash claims can be settled within six months, some can be complicated and take longer. 

Once you’ve submitted your claim and had your medical exam, an investigation will take place, after which you could be made an offer. You can either choose to accept or challenge the offer. 

You usually have three years from the accident date to make a claim.

Is it worth claiming for whiplash?

If you are injured in an accident that is not your fault, it’s worth claiming compensation. According to the Association of British Insurers, more than 1,500 whiplash claims are made every single day. Whiplash can be painful and have a long-lasting impact on your day-to-day life. You don’t have to suffer in silence. 

In summary

Commonly associated with car accidents, whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by a swift back-and-forth motion. It can be more than an annoying ailment, potentially affecting your day-to-day functioning. Regardless of the severity of your injury, it is possible to claim for whiplash compensation.

In May 2021, regulations around claiming for whiplash injuries changed. The impetus behind this was to decrease the number of fraudulent claims and the cost they add to insurance premiums.

According to the new rules:

  • Whiplash claims are capped at £5,000.
  • You can lodge a claim yourself through the government portal. However, if you prefer, you can still engage the services of a solicitor. Legal professionals will usually operate on a no win, no fee basis when it comes to whiplash claims.
  • You can no longer claim for legal fees.
  • Claims are awarded in tiers according to the severity of the injury and how long it lasts. Psychological symptoms accompany many whiplash injuries, a factor that is taken into account when your compensation is awarded.

You typically have three years to make a claim.

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