New Rules Affecting Low-Value Road Traffic Accident Injury Claims – from 31st May 2021
Important: If you have a suffered a serious injury, the new rules affecting Road Traffic Accident small claims do not affect you and you should contact us for personal advice. Likewise, there are different rules for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, horse-riders, children and those lacking mental capacity. If you are in any doubt, please contact us so we can assess the circumstances of your case to see how we can help you.
What is changing?
Prior to the 31st May 2021, if you were injured in a non-fault Road Traffic Accident you were eligible to recover compensation and legal fees from the negligent driver’s insurance company, provided your case had a valuation of £1,000.00 or more. However, if you are involved in a Road Traffic Accident on or after the 31st May 2021, that limit will increase to £5,000.00. This means if your case is valued at less than £5,000.00 you will not be able to recover any of your legal fees from your opponent. Such claims are referred to as Small Claims. It is the government’s view that claimants should represent themselves in Small Claims.
Furthermore, the government has reduced the level of compensation payable for whiplash injuries, so whereas in the past a whiplash injury lasting for up to 3 months might attract an award of £2,300.00, the new tariff will limit the compensation to just £240.00. The new compensation tariff for whiplash injuries is set out below. These are approximately 80% lower than in the past:
How do I represent myself?
The government has developed a new online service for the public to use when dealing with low value road traffic accident claims. The online service is called Official Injury Claim. The government has prepared some guidance notes to assist which you can find here: Guide to Making a Small Claim. Try to not be deterred by the complexity, the portal has been designed to guide you through the process. We also understand the Official Injury Claim’s team are operating a helpline which can provide additional support: 0800 118 1631.
How is it fair that I have to represent myself?
We have a lot of sympathy for claimants facing this process alone. At LLB Solicitors we strongly objected to these reforms (i.e. the Civil Liability Act 2018 and the Whiplash Reforms). The new level of compensation for soft tissue injuries (whiplash) is too low. The Small Claims Limit at £5,000.00 is too high. These factors combine to make it very difficult for those injured in Road Traffic Accidents to achieve a fair outcome. The government expects individuals to represent themselves against professional insurance companies supported by large teams of experienced lawyers – this is not a level playing field and does not serve justice. Insurance companies’ main interest is to maximise profits for their shareholders, and they work hard to minimise the money they pay out. Moreover, the online process created by the government is time consuming, even for those with the technical abilities required to be able to use it. The government’s guidance notes are 64 pages long which demonstrates how complex the system is. There is little doubt that as a consequence of these reforms many injured people will be excluded from obtaining the compensation they are entitled to. However, this is the new reality in which we must now operate. Motor insurers have promised these reforms will allow them to reduce insurance premiums by £35.00. Time will tell.
Claimant solicitors, such as LLB Solicitors, along with consumer rights organisations and many fair-minded politicians opposed these changes and collectively we won some concessions. This means that if you are a vulnerable road user, a child or a protected party the new rules do not apply in the same way, and you may be able to recover part of your legal fees. This covers pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists, horse-riders, those on mobility scooters and those lacking mental capacity. There are also different rules if the car that caused the accident is registered outside the UK, or if either driver has since died and is therefore represented by a personal representative. We are always happy to hear from potential clients, so if you are in any doubt please get in touch and we will discuss your options with you.
What should I do if I have a Small Claim?
- Seek appropriate medical attention if you are injured.
- Check your insurance policies for Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI). You might have such insurance as part of your motor policy, but LEI is also often found on house insurance policies or even on credit cards. If you have a policy of insurance which covers you for legal fees, then you will be able to secure a lawyer to help you with your claim.
- Give us a call or send us an email ([email protected]) so we can assess your claim to see if we are able to help you.
- Don’t rush. You will see from the above table of compensation that the awards increase over time. The only way to know for sure how well you will recover is to wait and see. You should of course seek medical attention as required from your GP, physiotherapist or A&E, but you may prefer to let your symptoms settle down before pursuing your injury claim. It’s never a good idea to leave things too long but you may decide to wait for 6-9 months from the date of the accident to see how you are feeling. Keep a diary of your symptoms and record how they progress and the impact they have on your daily life. This may help you when obtaining your medical evidence.
- Register your claim with the Official Injury Claims service: www.officialinjuryclaim.org.uk
- Don’t forget to include your financial losses as part of your claim. For example, medication, taxi fares, lost earnings, damage to property, vehicle repairs, insurance excess payment, etc. Take photographs of the damage to your vehicle and your property. Keep receipts. Retain evidence. If your financial losses total more than £10,000.00 then your claim ceases to be classed as a Small Claim and you cannot use the government’s online service. Please speak to us.
- Pay attention to all your injuries. A lot of the focus of the new system is on whiplash injuries, but if you have suffered other injuries make sure you keep a record and include them in your claim.
- The biggest risk posed by the new system is that claimants under-settle their claims. This can happen by rushing to accept a low offer which ignores or undervalues your injuries. If you were hospitalised, or lost consciousness as a consequence of your accident, or if you suffered multiple injuries we encourage you to contact us so we can assess your claim. Likewise, if you are not recovering in the way you or your GP might expect then speak to us. Often what can appear to be a mild injury can develop into something more serious. Once you settle your injury claim via the online portal you will not be able to revisit it in the future.
Can you help?
If you have a new claim, we would be happy to hear from you. If we think we can add value to your claim we will represent you. Broadly speaking, if we accept your case, we will cap your liability for our legal costs to 25% of the compensation we recover on your behalf; so if we recover £3,000.00 you would receive £2,250.00. If your claim is likely to be very low value and/or we think you would be better advised to pursue the claim yourself, we will tell you. There is no fee or obligation for contacting us with an enquiry.
If you do decide to represent yourself via the online system, you may subsequently find that you need advice on the terms of settlement proposed by your opponents. For example, if you feel they might have undervalued your claim, or they are not accepting responsibility for the accident so are refusing to pay out at all. We can review your claim, including the medical evidence and any offers from your opponent and provide you with our written advice. We charge a fixed fee of £300.00 for this service. It is suitable for clients who are representing themselves but are in two minds about settling their claim and/or are considering whether to proceed to a court hearing. This service can be particularly helpful if you have suffered multiple injuries.
If your injury claim is likely to be valued at more than £5,000.00 you will be able to recover legal fees from your opponents meaning we can assist you with your claim. You can read more about these claims here.
Please contact our specialist solicitors today for a free no obligation discussion about road traffic accident small claims, or any other legal issue you may have. You can call us on 0161 989 9400 or complete the contact us form.