The new Whiplash Reform Programme: What is set to change
The long-awaited reforms for whiplash injuries, which were first proposed in 2015, will now come into force as a package on 31 May 2021.
These changes were scheduled to come into effect in April 2020, but were delayed due to the pandemic. The reforms, which form part of the Civil Liability Act 2018, are a package of measures designed to modify the way low-value personal injury claims arising from road traffic accidents (RTAs) are handled. This means that Claimants will have the opportunity to settle these small personal injury claims without the need to go to court, or for legal representation. This could reduce the cost of road traffic accident (RTA) whiplash related claims, and in turn the potential impact these have on the cost of motor insurance premiums.
What are the main changes?
- Increasing the Small Claims Track (SCT) limit for personal injury claims arising out of motor accidents from £1,000 to £5,000.
- A ban on settling whiplash claims without medical evidence. The Official Injury Claim Service will enable Claimants to source medical reports to ensure claims are supported by medical evidence before settlement.
- The use of tariffs for whiplash injuries sustained by vehicle occupants.
- The creation of an on-line portal for SCT value injury claims arising out of motor accidents.
What will the likely impact be on whiplash claims?
It remains to be seen how the market will react, but the application of small claims track fees significantly reduces the economic incentive for Claimant lawyers to take on low value motor claims. It is possible that Claims Management Companies will increasingly move into this space as well as firms seeking to maximise the value of a claim to breach the £5,000 SCT limit.
What does this mean for transport operators?
Motor transport operators need to take note that where they intend to deny liability for an incident they must do so within 30 days of receipt of the notification form. Crucially this denial must be supported by their driver’s full version of events, and this must be verified by a signed Statement of Truth. There will be an ability to provide a witness summary if this cannot be done, effectively stating what it is believed the driver will say, but the reasons a statement cannot be obtained will need to be clearly set out. This will also likely indicate to the Claimant that the Defendant is struggling to obtain the necessary evidence from their driver, and highlight weaknesses in the defence.
Failure to do this, or failure to respond altogether, will be seen as liability being admitted in full.
The new reforms should result in costs savings to the insurance industry and Defendants, but it will be crucial to ensure that your organisation has a robust post-incident process to quickly obtain comprehensive evidence from your driver where the intention is to deny liability.
A clear and detailed statement is going to be vital in disputed liability cases and Marsh can support organisations looking to enhance their post-incident processes to accommodate the new reforms.
Defendants who fail to do so are likely to find themselves in a positon where they pay out more than necessary in non-fault cases.