Personal injury claim compensation was cut in 2021

woman injured in accident

Changes to personal injury law reduced compensation levels, making it harder for injured people to get legal representation in after April 2021. Find out if you will be affected.

How is the personal injury law changing?

Following the introduction of the Civil Liability Act 2018, personal injury claims will be handled by the small claims court, unless:

  • General damages estimate exceeds £5,000 for road accidents or £2,000 for other incidents
  • The total value of the claim (general damages plus special damages) exceed £10,000

Until the changes happen, the general damages limit remains only £1,000. At present only the most minor injuries fall into the small claims category (such as cuts, bruises and very short-term whiplash).

After the reforms, many more serious injuries will fall below the small claims limit, including some fractures, scarring and other injuries taking years to fully heal.

When will the changes come into effect?

Originally the changes were scheduled for April 2021. In May 2020, the Lord Chancellor announced a delay to the implementation until April 2021.

Please watch this space for further updates.

Why the small claims limit matters to you

Solicitors cannot recover their legal costs from the defendant in a small claims court.

In practice, this means that small claims are usually not cost-effective for solicitors to handle. So for a typical ‘small claims’ injury claim, you will find that you won’t be able to get legal representation to seek compensation.

So I won’t be able to use a no win no fee solicitor after the changes?

The process will be different. If your claim meets the above criteria i.e. estimated to be worth less than £5,000, a solicitor is unlikely to take on your claim on a no win, no fee basis, as they will consider the claim to be 'low-quantum'.

Do I actually need a solicitor then?

It depends. In theory, lower value claims are often less complex, and there are plans to launch an online courts process to help people claim without a solicitor.

However, just because a claim is lower-value does not mean that it will be simpler or easier. Some high-value claims can be very straightforward, and some low-value claims can involve complex personal injury law.

You may feel confident enough to handle the claims process yourself, if:

  • the defendant has admitted full liability, and
  • your injuries have already fully healed (so you know their full impact on your life), and
  • the circumstances of your accident are relatively straightforward.

However, if any of the above factors do not apply, or the case becomes more complex once it is underway (e.g. because new evidence comes to light, your injuries worsen or the defendant disputes liability) you could find yourself quickly out of your depth. In practice, this could mean:

  • Risking delays in the whole claims process
  • Risking that interim payments are not paid, or are delayed, or underpaid
  • Risking that you under settle your claim

Worst of all, unexpected complications could mean that you end up losing your case.

Will my claim be affected?

The amount of money you could claim for your injury will depend on the seriousness of your injury, and
any financial losses or costs you have incurred. Compensation amounts published in the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury, and our online compensation calculator has been updated to reflect the changes.

There’s more…

The amount of compensation payable for soft tissue injuries (including whiplash) resulting from road traffic accidents will be significantly reduced.

What counts as a ‘whiplash claim?

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) define whiplash as:

(a) a sprain, strain, tear, rupture or lesser damage of a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder, or
(b) an injury of soft tissue associated with a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder.

How much will soft tissue injury compensation be reduced by?

A new tariff system will be introduced for soft tissue RTA claims where the injury takes fewer than two years to heal.

The tariff will significantly reduce the amount of compensation payable to soft tissue injury victims for pain, suffering and loss of amenity:

Injury duration (months) Proposed fixed tariff compensation award Current estimated average damages
0 to 3 £275 £1,800
3 to 6 £470 £2,250
6 to 9 £805 £2,700
9 to 12 £1,250 £3,250
12 to 15 £1,910 £3,650
15 to 18 £2,790 £4,150
18 to 24 £3,910 £4,750

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. Vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists are not affected by the changes.

Passengers, (excluding children who are considered ‘protected parties’) however, will be affected by the changes.

Why has the government done this?

Despite years of press coverage to the contrary, independent studies and the government’s own research have confirmed that whiplash fraud is very rare. Some studies relying on older data have also failed to recognise the significant fall in whiplash claims that have already occurred in recent years, following reforms enacted in 2013.

Even before the changes, injury compensation levels in the UK are already amongst the lowest in Europe.

Ostensibly, the government’s reason for reform was to deter fraudulent claims. Addressing theories as to what the real motivation for the changes was is beyond the scope of this article, but much has been elsewhere on the subject.

How we can help

We believe that the reforms will put injured people with legitimate claims, at risk of being under-compensated. Some people could effectively be denied access to justice.

The purpose of compensation is to return people to the situation they were in before the accident occurred. Compensation is awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity. Compensation pays for critical medical treatment and care as well as covering incurred losses such as loss of earnings. Without compensation, people risk being unable to pay the living and medical costs for themselves and their families.

Many people will not want to represent themselves in a small claims court. When affected by an injury, the last thing a claimant may want to do is represent themselves in court.

My accident has already happened - will the changes affect me?

The new tariffs will apply according to the date you start your claim, not then date of injury.

You are therefore best advised to start a claim as soon as possible.

How can Quittance help?

We would be happy to advise you on how the changes could affect you.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

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Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor