A Guide to Claiming Whiplash Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a whiplash injury we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a whiplash injury and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.

How do I know if I have whiplash?

Whiplash is a term used to describe a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways.

What are the symptoms?

Whiplash symptoms include neck pain and stiffness. Whiplash affects people in different ways, and the pain can be severe in some cases.

Symptoms can also be delayed, only appearing a day or so after the accident.

Read more about whiplash symptoms

What should I do if I think I have whiplash?

The first thing to do is seek immediate medical attention. Whiplash can lead to serious, long-term injury if not treated appropriately. You may also have other injuries that are not immediately apparent.

Medical attention is also a critical part of the whiplash claims process. The formal medical diagnosis will form part of the basis of any compensation claim you may decide to pursue.

You should also report the accident to the police as soon as possible. A police report will be useful supporting evidence should you wish to make a claim.

There are a few key steps you can take to maximise the likelihood of a successful claim:

Read more: Important things to do if you think you have whiplash

Do I have a whiplash claim?

You should be able to make a whiplash injury claim if your injury happened:

  • in the last three years and,
  • someone else was at fault.

Even if these two points don't apply to you, you may still be able to make a claim.

To get impartial advice on whether you have a claim, speak to a legal expert on 0800 612 7456.

A brief phone consultation will confirm whether you have a claim. There is no obligation to start a claim.

Alternatively you can try our Online Claim Checker.

Do I need a final diagnosis to make a whiplash claim?

If you have been injured and are awaiting the results, you should still seek legal advice as soon as possible. The sooner you start a whiplash claim after an accident, the more likely your claim is to succeed.

Check my claim

What if the road accident was my fault?

If you think you were partly responsible for the road accident or for your injury, it should still be possible to make a claim.

In these cases, claims are usually settled with a split liability agreement.

For example, if you were 50% responsible for your injuries, you would receive 50% less compensation.

Read more about when there is uncertainty as to who is to blame.

What if the driver was uninsured or untraceable?

If the driver responsible for the injury is either uninsured or untraceable, a claim can be pursued through the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB).

The MIB is an independent body that pays road accident compensation to the victims of uninsured or untraced (unidentified) drivers.

Read more

What if a child was injured?

The 3 year rule does not apply to minors.

A claim can be pursued for anyone under the age of 18 by a parent, guardian or litigation friend. The injured child has up to the age of 21 to start a whiplash claim on their own behalf.

Read more about claiming injury compensation on behalf of a child.

Do I need a medical diagnosis before making a claim?

Minor cases of whiplash are often treated with painkillers, and an injured person may not feel they need to see a doctor.

For the purposes of a compensation claim, however, your solicitor will refer you to a doctor to carry out a medical assessment. The medical will be carried out at a location near you.

Read more about whether you you need a medical diagnosis to make a whiplash claim?

What if I was partly to blame?

Even at the scene of an accident, it is not always obvious which driver was responsible for the crash.

In cases where responsibility for an accident or injury is shared by both sides, it should still be possible to claim whiplash compensation. These compensation claims are usually resolved with a split liability agreement.

You will likely still be awarded some compensation, but the final amount will be reduced. If the court decides that you were 25% responsible for your injuries, for example, you would receive 25% less compensation.

What if there is uncertainty as to who is to blame?

How much compensation can I claim for whiplash?

The amount of money you could claim for your whiplash will depend on:

  • the extent of your injury, and
  • any financial losses or costs you have incurred.

At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your whiplash has affected your life. Your solicitor will take all of these effects into account to calculate the correct compensation award for you.

This calculation will factor in 'general damages' and 'special damages'.

General damages

General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).

Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.

Special damages

Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

What can I claim for after a whiplash? (see list)

Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:

  • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
  • Medical treatment costs
  • Physiotherapy
  • Travel costs
  • Costs of care
  • Costs of adapting your home or car

Whiplash compensation amounts

The following whiplash payouts refer to the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases, Fourteenth Edition by the Judicial College.

Injury Example Amount
Minor Whiplash Full recovery within 3 months £300 to £1,950
Moderate Whiplash Full recovery within 1 year £1,950 to £3,470
Serious Whiplash Full recovery within 2 years £3,470 to £6,290

How is compensation calculated if I have multiple whiplash injuries?

If you have sustained multiple injuries, the compensation amounts are not simply added together.

The upper bracket of the most serious injury may be considered as a starting point, with a reduced amount applied for the other less severe injuries.

For example:

General damages for a serious neck injury can be £52,000

For a less severe shoulder injury, in isolation, you would typically receive £4,500.

However, if you have a serious neck injury and a less severe shoulder injury, you would typically receive £52,000 + a reduced percentage of £4,500.

Special damages, such as loss of earnings are not usually increased if you have multiple injuries.

What is the average injury compensation for a whiplash claim?

The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the ranges awarded for different injuries.

However, the money you would receive following a whiplash will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

Your whiplash compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life, your ability to work, and the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.

See the injury table above for some examples.

Find out what your whiplash claim could be worth now

Assessing a claim's value at the outset can be complicated, particularly if you have multiple injuries.

If you would like a FREE claim estimate with no obligation to start a claim, call 0800 612 7456.

Alternatively, our compensation calculator will give you an instant estimate of what your claim is worth.

I can't find my injury in the table, can I still claim?

The table is a list of the most common injuries associated with a whiplash claim. You can see the full list of injury awards here: Judicial College Injury Tables.

Calculate my claim

How long do I have to make a whiplash claim?

In general, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the whiplash to make an injury claim.

The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim limitation date - after which your whiplash claim becomes 'statute barred'.

Can I claim for a whiplash after 3 years?

For adults, the general rule is no, you cannot start a claim more than three years after a car crash or other road accident.

However, if you were injured as a child, you do have up until your 21st birthday to make a claim.

In reality, there are a number of factors that can affect whether a car accident claim will be taken on by a solicitor.

Will I still be able to claim for a whiplash after the law changes in April 2020?

The law relating to personal injury claims is changing in April 2020.

You will no longer be able to claim no win, no fee compensation using a solicitor for lower value claims (under £5,000).

In addition, compensation for whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries will be reduced.

Should I deal directly with the insurer?

Although you can deal directly with the defendant's insurance company, there are risks to this approach.

The most important danger is that you under-settle your claim. For example, this could leave you unable to fund a full course of physio, delaying your recovery, or could cause financial difficulties if you have to take out a loan to make up the shortfall.

Read more about the risks and benefits of dealing directly with insurance companies.

Reasons to use a solicitor for your whiplash claim

A personal injury solicitor will:

  • Help you through every step of the claims process
  • Be familiar with insurance company tricks and negotiating tactics
  • On average, get up to 3 times more compensation when going through a solicitor (source: Financial Conduct Authority)

How long does it take to receive whiplash compensation?

As a general rule, road accident claims for injuries like whiplash will usually take four to nine months to complete.

It can take longer for more complex or serious injuries. Regardless of how long a claim takes, your solicitor may be able to arrange for you to get interim payments.

How long does a whiplash claim take?

Early/interim compensation payments for whiplash

An interim payment is when you receive a part-payment of your whiplash compensation before the claim has been finally settled.

These payments can be arranged if your whiplash injury means you are:

  • Unable to work, or,
  • Unable to pay for treatment (such as physiotherapy)

In order for an interim payment to be paid, your whiplash claim must meet certain criteria.

Can my solicitor get me an interim payment?

No win, no fee, no risk

No win, no fee takes all of the risk out of making a whiplash claim. If you don't win your claim, you won't have to pay your solicitor any legal fees.

Our no win, no fee guarantee

If you have been injured through no fault of your own, our no win, no fee guarantee takes the risk out of making a whiplash injury compensation claim.

What do I pay if I win my whiplash claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, once your claim is settled. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. Your solicitor will agree a success fee with you before you start your claim.

What do I pay if I do not win my whiplash claim?

If your whiplash claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees at all.

Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

Please note, under a No Win, No Fee Agreement (CFA), fees may apply if a claimant refuses to cooperate, or abandons their claim after the legal work has started, or if the claim is fraudulent.

How can Quittance help?

Our highly experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury claims. Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for 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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FAQ's

Can I claim for someone else?

Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by Quittance’s solicitor panel are settled out of court.

Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.

Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.

Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?

No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.

Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.

Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

Can I make a claim as a passenger?

Yes. From the point of view of making a whiplash claim, whether you were driving or were a passenger is immaterial. What matters is that you were injured, and that it was not your fault.

Can injured car or vehicle passengers get compensation?

Who pays the whiplash claim compensation?

Road traffic accident claims are usually settled by the defendant's insurance company. If the defendant does not have insurance (or is untraceable), claimants can apply to the Motor Insurers Bureau' (MIB).

Can I make a claim if the symptoms have cleared up?

Yes. You can, if you obtained medical attention at the time and this corroborates your injury. It will usually be necessary to obtain copies of any supporting medical evidence.

Can I make a claim if there was no damage to the car?

Yes. Whiplash can be sustained in a low-speed collision where there is no vehicle damage. It is also possible to sustain injuries where there is no collision at all, e.g. when a driver is forced to brake suddenly.

For example, a negligent driver's conduct may cause another road user to perform an emergency stop. A collision may be avoided, but the abrupt braking could well cause a whiplash injury, particularly if your vehicle was travelling at speed.

Can I make a claim if I wasn't wearing a seatbelt?

Yes. It is still possible to make a claim if you were not wearing a seat belt.

However, it is assumed that you have contributed to the seriousness of your injuries. This is known as contributory negligence. Your compensation award will be reduced (often by around 25%). This is to reflect the amount of compensation you would have got, if you had worn a seat belt and, therefore, received less serious injuries.

Read more about claims for road accident compensation without a seatbelt.

Can I make a claim if I had no insurance?

Maybe. As a passenger, you can make a whiplash claim without insurance. This is because in most cases compensation is paid out by the negligent driver's insurance company, not your own.

If you are a driver involved in an accident that was not your fault and you do not have insurance, the situation is more complicated. Driving without valid insurance is an offence. Whether you can still make a claim will depend on the facts of the case.

How long does a whiplash claim take?

How fast a whiplash claim will reach a settlement will depend on a number of factors.

Compared to other types of accident claim, whiplash claims for road accidents are usually quick to resolve. The quickest whiplash claim could pay out in a matter of weeks, with most resolving within four months.

Read more about how long a whiplash case should take

Should I claim through my insurance?

When you make a personal injury claim, for whiplash or any other injury that occurs as the result of a road accident that was not your fault, the claim is usually handled by the negligent driver's insurance.

In these circumstances, whatever insurance coverage you have should not be affected.

Read more about whether you should you claim whiplash compensation through your insurance.

Can I make a claim as a car passenger?

Yes. From the point of view of making a claim, whether you were driving or were a passenger is immaterial. What matters is that you were injured, and that it was not your fault.

Can injured car or vehicle passengers get compensation?

Can I make a claim if there was no damage to the car?

Yes. Injuries can be sustained in a low-speed collision where there is no vehicle damage. It is even possible to sustain injuries where there is no collision at all, e.g. when a driver is forced to brake suddenly.

For example, a negligent driver's conduct may cause another road user to perform an emergency stop. A collision may be avoided, but the abrupt braking could well cause a whiplash injury, particularly if your vehicle was travelling at speed.

Can I make a claim if I wasn't wearing a seatbelt?

Yes. It is still possible to make a claim if you were not wearing a seat belt.

However, it would likely be assumed that you contributed to the seriousness of your injuries. This is known as contributory negligence. Your compensation award will be reduced (often by around 25%). This is to reflect the amount of compensation you would have got, if you had worn a seat belt and, therefore, received less serious injuries.

Read more about claims for road accident compensation without a seatbelt.

What should I do if my car insurer wants me to claim through them?

Some insurance companies have tried to deter genuine road traffic accident claimants from claiming the full compensation to which they are entitled. Insurance companies do not want you to make a claim and will try to minimise the compensation paid out if you do claim.

If you have already been contacted by an insurance company offering to deal directly with your road accident claim, remember that most insurance companies are responsible to their shareholders, not to you as the injured person.

Instructing an expert road accident solicitor gives you the peace of mind that you have an independent specialist on your side.

A solicitor has a duty of care to you, their client, and will seek to obtain the maximum amount of compensation for the harm that has been done.

If you pursue your claim through a solicitor you have the added reassurance of being represented by a professional regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Can I claim if I had no insurance?

Maybe. As a car passenger, you can make a claim without car insurance. This is because in most cases compensation is paid out by the negligent car driver's insurance company, not your own.

If you are a driver involved in an accident that was not your fault and you do not have insurance, the situation is more complicated. Driving without valid insurance is an offence. Whether you can still make a claim will depend on the facts of the case.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

About the author

Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert