Personal injury

From 31 May 2021, the personal injury claims process is changing for people who suffer from low-value injuries in road traffic accidents (RTAs).

This page covers:

The changes will affect the amount of compensation claimants receive and include:

  • tariffs for whiplash injuries that last up to two years from RTAs
  • the small claims limit increasing from £1,000 to £5,000 for RTAs not involving vulnerable road-users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders
  • a new online portal called the Official Injury Claim service

The changes do not apply to claims involving children.

The reforms are partly the result of the Civil Liability Act 2018. The regulations underpinning these reforms include:

There will also be a new Pre-action Protocol for personal injury claims below the small claims limit in RTAs.

Our view

We’ve written to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) outlining our key concerns, including:

  • mixed claims – it's not clear how mixed claims will be handled and valued, where the claimant has suffered a tariff injury and a non-tariff injury
  • discretionary uplift – it’s not clear in which circumstances a judge can award a 20% uplift to the tariff
  • moving data – it’s not clear how information would be transferred securely between the existing claims portal (used by solicitors) and the new Online Injury Claims portal
  • duplication and inconsistency – there are lots of scenarios where the process could be confusing and inconsistent for people involved in same accident

What this means for claimants

The small claims limit increase, along with new tariffs, will lead to more cases being processed as small claims.

Claimants are therefore unlikely to be able to recover their legal costs. For many, the only option may be to use the Official Injury Claim portal and in some cases represent themselves in court. The MoJ is expected to publish a guide on making a claim, for people without representation.

What this means for solicitors

More personal injury cases will be treated as small claims. Many claimants may decide not to be represented by a solicitor, as they will not be able to recover their costs.

Some firms working in low-value personal injury RTA claims may struggle to stay in the market.

Solicitors working in this area may benefit from revising their business models to adapt to the changes.

If you represent claimants for claims under £10,000, your organisation needs to register on the online portal.

Find out how to register

Using the online claims portal

The Official Injury Claim service is for personal injury claims worth less than £5,000 or £10,000 collectively.

Claims that go over the £10,000 limit will need to be managed outside the portal.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau runs the portal and has made toolkits to support those using the service, including an overview for claims professionals and specific guides on:

You can also watch video walkthroughs:

What we're doing

We’ve written to the MoJ outlining our key concerns with implementing the whiplash reforms. These include issues such as:

  • clarity on mixed claims and discretionary tariff uplift
  • moving data between claims portals
  • duplication and inconsistency
  • how the reforms will be evaluated 

The government announced in a ministerial statement that the reforms would be delayed again to May 2021.

The government announced that it would delay the implementation of the changes to whiplash claims until 1 August 2020. We continued to highlight our concerns about the impact of the proposals on access to justice, and have written to the new minister. The implementation was then further delayed to April 2021 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Civil Liability Act 2018 was passed on 20 December 2018. Full details will be set out in regulations. The reforms were expected to be introduced in April 2020.

We welcomed changes to the Civil Liability Bill that address some of our concerns. Vulnerable road users – cyclists and pedestrians – will be excluded. Courts will be able to increase compensation decided by tariffs in exceptional circumstances.

The government responded to the Justice Select Committee report: changes will be delayed and will follow tests of the online portal. We welcomed this and asked the government to reconsider its plans to increase the small claims limit.

We welcomed a Justice Select Committee report which recommended a lower increase to the small claims limit and highlighted the technical challenges of the suggested online claims portal.

We campaigned against the government’s Civil Liability Bill on whiplash claims reform and personal injury discount rate application because it will reduce fair compensation.

Whiplash injuries

We oppose:

  • tariffs for whiplash injuries – cause of injury should not influence the amount of compensation
  • low tariffs that will not adequately compensate people with whiplash injuries

We support:

  • the insurers’ report to parliament, explaining savings have been passed to motorists, but this should come sooner than 2025
  • a ban on offers from insurers before medical examination

We suggest:

  • the government tackles whiplash fraud instead of introducing reforms that affect legitimate claims
  • judges are able to increase compensation in exceptional circumstances
  • the government and medical experts create definitions of ‘whiplash’ and ‘psychological injury’
  • the government clarifies clauses in the act about reasonable steps to mitigate injury
  • banning insurance offers before medical examination for all personal injury claims

Small claims limit

We oppose:

  • preventing road traffic accident victims with small claims recovering their legal costs

We support:

  • proposals to restrict increases to the whiplash small claims limit by linking them to inflation

Personal injury discount rate

We oppose:

  • the lord chancellor setting the new rate based only on the Government Actuary Department report, without advice from an expert panel

We support:

  • regular personal injury discount rate review, to reflect variable interest rates
  • the lord chancellor taking advice from an expert panel when reviewing the rate in future

We suggest:

  • an independent expert panel sets the rate without the lord chancellor’s involvement
  • government commissions more research to justify changes to the discount rate, particularly on how claimants invest their damages

We responded to the Justice Select Committee inquiry into the personal injury small claims limit. We highlighted concerns that unrepresented claimants would pay upfront if reforms proceed.

We opposed the MoJ’s proposal to increase the personal injury small claims limit. It prevents claimants accessing expert legal advice to prove their case and provide medical evidence.

We responded to the MoJ’s consultation on the personal injury discount rate. We welcomed the MoJ’s new policy that includes a review of the discount rate every three years and an independent expert panel helping the lord chancellor set it.

The bill was scrapped: no time for parliamentary consideration before the general election. It intended to cap whiplash compensation and ban settlement without medical evidence. It followed concerns about rising motor insurance costs, plus the high number and cost of whiplash injury claims.

Get involved

We continue to lobby government about the increase to the personal injury small claims limit and changes to the discount rate.

Resources

Official Injury Claim toolkit for claims professionals

Whiplash reform programme: government guidance and FAQ 

Ministry of Justice webinar on whiplash reforms (recorded on 11 March 2021) – start video at 10:07 or download popular questions (PDF 173 KB).