Whiplash compensation claim reforms pushed back to next year
In a bid to tackle the high number and cost of whiplash claims which pushed up motor insurance premiums for drivers, the government announced it would implement a Whiplash Reform Programme.
The changes were originally expected to come into force in April 2020 before being pushed back to August. But the personal injury claim changes have now been moved back to April 2021, secretary of state for justice, Robert Buckland MP confirmed.
A written statement read: “The government remains firmly committed to implementing these measures which are intended to control the number and cost of whiplash claims.
“However, it is apparent that the current Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the medical, legal and insurance sectors. While the whiplash reform measures remain important, the government is committed to acting to ease the disruption and pressures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak where it can.
“As a result, the government has considered representations from key stakeholder groups and agrees that now is not the time to press ahead with significant transformational change to the personal injury sector.
“We have therefore decided to delay the implementation of the whiplash reform programme to April 2021. This will enable key sectors of this country’s business to focus their energies on delivering their response to Covid-19, and will allow the government to focus on delivering key services in the justice area during this difficult time.”
Whiplash Reform Programme – what’s changing?
The law surrounding road traffic accidents and claims as a result of personal injury will change as part of The Civil Liability Act 2018.
This includes increasing the small claims court limit for road traffic compensation from £1,000 to £5,000. If an injury is worth less than £5,000, claimants can still go to court but they will need to pay for their own legal costs or represent themselves, according to JMP Solicitors.
There will also be a fixed amount on how much claimants can receive for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for whiplash injuries sustained in a road traffic accident.
For injuries that last less than two years, the fixed amount you can receive will range from £235 – £3,910, lower than the typical £5,000 damages level currently set.
There will also be a ban on the making or accepting of offers to settle a whiplash claim without a medical report.
Under the new act, this means claimants will have to submit their own proceedings as well as manage their own medical evidence, including paying for medical assessments and treatment before receiving compensation.
Delayed savings for drivers
Dan Hutson, head of motor insurance at comparethemarket.com, said: “While another delay to the implementation of the whiplash reforms may make sense in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, an unintended consequence could be that insurers are forced to keep premiums higher for many and even unaffordable for some. The cost of cover has become problematic for so many and the financial difficulties presented by the pandemic make this even more of a challenge.
“Previous government estimates indicated that the whiplash reforms would take £35 off premiums. The delay will push this saving out until April 2021 at a time when people can afford it least.
“For those struggling to keep up with the cost of their insurance, there are a number of measures that could be taken, such as changing your policy from a commuter to social use or declaring your car off road if appropriate. It is also important to ensure you are on the most competitive policy possible. If you are coming up to renewal, it is worth shopping around to see if you can find a better deal – drivers stand to save £121 on average by switching.”