A guide to whiplash compensation claims

In the following article we explain everything you need to know about making a whiplash accident compensation claim.

Contrary to popular belief, whiplash symptoms can mean severe, long-term pain. Even relatively minor cases of whiplash can make basic tasks difficult.

If you have suffered a whiplash injury that was not your fault in the last three years, you could be entitled to claim compensation.

1,000s helped every year

Every year, expert injury solicitors help 1,000s of people claim whiplash compensation.

A solicitor can help you recover compensation and even claim interim payments, to pay for your treatment, physiotherapy, living costs and to provide financial support while you are unable to work.

Do I have a whiplash claim?

If you were injured in a road accident in the last three years (longer if children were involved) and someone else was to blame, then a whiplash compensation claim should be possible.

In practice, however, a solicitor may not take on your claim for other reasons.

Do I have a claim?

How do I know if I have whiplash - what are the symptoms?

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

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 to do if you think you 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.

Additionally 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 need a medical diagnosis to make a whiplash 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, a 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?

Can I still claim if I was partly to blame for the accident?

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?

Your whiplash compensation amount will be based on:

  • How long your injury will last
  • How serious your whiplash symptoms are, and,
  • Any other financial losses you have suffered, including lost wages and treatment costs

In legal terms, your whiplash compensation is broken down into two categories:

General Damages

General damages are awarded for “pain, suffering and loss of amenity”. This means the general damages you get will be calculated based on the seriousness of your injury, and the specific impact that your whiplash symptoms have had on your life.

Special Damages

Special damages vary depending on individual circumstances, and could include lost wages, the cost of care and physiotherapy, any financial losses or expenses incurred.

Split liability agreements

If the other driver involved in a road accident does not accept full responsibility, your solicitor may recommend accepting a split liability agreement. Under split liability, your compensation award could be reduced by as much as 50%, depending on the circumstances of the accident.

Read more about road accident compensation amounts.

How much can I claim?

Average payouts for whiplash

Minimum and maximum whiplash compensation rates are set by the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG). Courts and insurance companies use these guidelines to calculate compensation awards.

The following table sets out general damages for whiplash and associated injuries (Updated June 2018):

Whiplash injuries

Whiplash healing within 3 months

£300 to £1,950

Whiplash recovering fully within 1 year

£1,950 to £3,470

Whiplash healing fully within 2 years

£3,470 to £6,290

Back injuries

Back injury healing in a few months

Up to £1,950

Back injury healing in up to 2 years

£1,950 to £6,290

Back injury healing in 2-5 years

£6,290 to £9,970

Serious back injury with permanent symptoms

£59,120 to £70,490

Neck injuries

Neck injury recovering completely in up to a year

£1,950 to £3,470

Neck injury recovering completely in 1-2 years

£3,470 to £6,290

Neck injury with spinal cord damage

£72,620 to £128,320

Other neck injuries

£300 to £118,240

Shoulder injuries

Minor to severe shoulder injury

£6,290 to £38,280

Find out whether your injury is classified as Minor, Moderate or Severe using our calculator.

Do I need a solicitor for a whiplash claim?

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)

Whiplash claim success rate

There is a considerable difference in the whiplash claim success rates of solicitor firms.

It is a good idea to ask what a firm's success rate is before instructing them. A good solicitor should also be able to give you an idea of your chances of winning your claim.

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 whiplash claims

Legal Aid is usually not available to personal injury claimants. Solicitors now work on a No Win, No Fee basis.

No Win No Fee is an agreement (technically known as a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA') which is entered into between a claimant and the solicitor.

No Win No Fee means that if your whiplash claim is unsuccessful then you pay no legal fees. It does not cost you anything at all to make a claim if you lose.

If your case is successful, a success fee will be paid to your solicitor.  This success fee is deducted from the compensation award.

Why do most solicitors charge a 25% success fee?

Read more about how No Win, No Fee CFA works



Is the Government clamping down on whiplash claims?

The Government recently announced reforms that would impose a maximum cap on whiplash compensation. If you have a genuine whiplash claim, you are still entitled to receive compensation.

Will my whiplash claim go to court?

Very unlikely. The overwhelming majority of cases are settled out of court. The likelihood of ever having to go to court is very small.

Do I need a solicitor to make a whiplash claim?

Technically, no, but a solicitor can help to ensure you get the correct amount of compensation that you are entitled to. Your lawyer can also correspond with the defendant and their insurance company, on your behalf, to negotiate on issues like interim payments.

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).

How long after the accident do I have to make a claim?

If the accident occurred within the last 3 years, you may be entitled to make a claim. Therefore, you can start a whiplash claim 1 or even 2 years after the date of the injury.

What if the passenger was a child?

Whiplash injuries affecting children and babies are not uncommon. 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 claim on their own behalf.

Read more about child injury claims

Can I make a whiplash 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.

Is there a minimum speed of collision for a whiplash claim?

It is possible to sustain whiplash injuries in a low velocity collision (up to 5mph). What matters is that you have been injured, not how fast the vehicle was moving.

Read more about low velocity claims

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.

Should I accept pre-medical offer from the insurance company?

Early offers to settle are commonly made by insurance companies to claimants who have yet to speak to a solicitor.

These pre-medical offers are typically substantially lower than the compensation you would receive via a solicitor.

When is the best point to accept a compensation offer?

Can I make a whiplash 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?

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.

Can I get an interim payment for a whiplash claim?

In theory, yes. It may be possible to negotiate an interim payment for whiplash if:

  • Liability for the accident is clear (who caused the accident), and
  • The injured person needs the money urgently, for example to fund physiotherapy or to cover living expenses while they are unable to work.

It is much more difficult to negotiate an interim payment if the liability for the accident, or the severity of the injury, is disputed.

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 you claim through your 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.

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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