Making a Whiplash Insurance Claim

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In the UK, whiplash injury claims are exceedingly common, with an average of over 1,500 claims filed each day. This type of claim is a frequent occurrence within the insurance sector.

However, recent changes to the rules governing compensation have been implemented. These changes aim to curb the number of fraudulent and overstated claims, which have historically led to increased insurance costs for motorists.

For those who have experienced the misfortune of sustaining whiplash in a car accident, and are considering filing a claim, it is important to be aware of the essential information regarding this process.

What is Whiplash?

Definition and Causes

Whiplash is a type of neck injury that often results from a sudden impact, typically during vehicle accidents. This injury is especially common when a vehicle is hit from behind.

The force of the collision causes rapid back-and-forth movement of the head and neck, similar to the cracking of a whip, hence the name “whiplash.”

The primary cause of whiplash is the unexpected and abrupt movement that strains the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) in the neck, back, and shoulders.

This sudden motion can cause the cervical spine to move beyond its normal range of motion, leading to injury.

What Is Whiplash?

Symptoms of Whiplash

The symptoms of whiplash are not always immediate. They can take six to 12 hours to manifest after the incident. The most common symptoms include:

  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Painful headaches, often at the base of the skull
  • Dizziness
  • Sometimes, sufferers may experience additional symptoms like blurred vision, fatigue, and problems with concentration.

Duration and Recovery

The recovery period for whiplash can vary significantly. Minor cases of whiplash typically resolve within a few days to a couple of weeks. These cases generally involve mild strains that do not cause lasting damage.

However, in more severe cases, the symptoms of whiplash can persist for several months or even years. Long-term complications can include chronic neck pain and prolonged limitation of neck movement.

The severity of the injury, the health condition of the individual prior to the accident, and the speed of receiving appropriate treatment can all influence the recovery time.

Treatment and Management

The treatment for whiplash depends on the severity of the condition. For milder cases, over-the-counter pain relief medication, rest, and ice packs can be effective. It’s also beneficial to maintain normal activities as much as possible to promote healing.

In cases of severe whiplash, medical intervention may be required. This can include prescription pain medication, physiotherapy, and, in some cases, wearing a cervical collar to support and immobilise the neck temporarily.

Early medical evaluation and following a treatment plan tailored to the individual’s specific needs are crucial for a successful recovery.

Prevention

Preventing whiplash primarily involves safety measures while driving, such as wearing seat belts correctly and adjusting headrests to the proper height. These precautions can help reduce the risk and severity of neck injuries in the event of a car accident.

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New System for Whiplash Claims Under £5,000

Introduction to the New System

In an effort to combat fraudulent whiplash claims, significant changes were introduced to the claims process in May 2021. These reforms were designed to streamline the system, reduce legal costs, and ensure that compensation is awarded only in genuine cases.

Key Changes in the Claims Process

Requirement for Medical Proof

One of the primary changes is that no insurance provider can offer compensation for a whiplash injury without medical proof. This measure aims to eliminate fraudulent claims by ensuring that only medically verified injuries are compensated.

Official Injury Claim (OIC) Online Portal

Another significant change is the introduction of the Official Injury Claim (OIC) online portal. This portal is specifically for handling claims under £5,000. It is intended for use in England and Wales for accidents occurring on or after 31 May 2021.

Official Injury Claim (Oic)

The OIC portal simplifies the claims process, particularly in cases where liability is not disputed, thus avoiding lengthy and expensive court proceedings.

Statistics Since the Launch

Since the scheme’s initiation up to 30 September 2022, the OIC portal has seen a substantial number of claims. 315,409 claims have been submitted in total, with about 24,000 claims being made each month between July and September 2022.

Claim types

Number of claims 1 July to 30 September 2022

Whiplash only

12,313

Whiplash + minor psychological

7,475

Whiplash + physical

18,691

Whiplash + physical + minor psychological

21,791

Multiple injuries

5,140

Physical only

1,731

Physical + psychological

578

These numbers reflect the high volume of whiplash claims and the importance of an efficient processing system.

Compensation and Financial Impacts

Fixed Compensation for Minor Injuries

Under the new system, the amount of compensation for minor injuries sustained in a car accident is now fixed. This standardization aims to ensure fairness and transparency in the compensation process.

Reduction in Car Insurance Premiums

A notable benefit of these changes is the expected reduction in car insurance premiums. Following the reforms in 2021, drivers are anticipated to see an average decrease of around £35 on their annual car insurance premiums.

This reduction is a direct result of decreased fraudulent claims and the associated costs, benefiting honest drivers across the country.

Key Takeaway

The overhaul of the whiplash claims process represents a significant step towards a more efficient and fair system.

It not only deters fraudulent claims but also streamlines the process for legitimate ones, potentially reducing insurance costs for all drivers.

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How to Claim for Whiplash Injury Compensation

When to Claim

Whiplash injury claims should be considered when the accident causing the injury was not your fault. In such cases, the claim is made against the other party’s insurance provider, not your own. This is a key point to remember when initiating a whiplash compensation claim.

How To Claim For Whiplash Injury Compensation

The Claim Process Under New Rules

Claims Under £5,000

For claims that are under £5,000, the process has been notably simplified under the new system. This means that individuals can personally make the claim without the necessity of legal assistance, potentially saving on legal fees.

The average time from claim to settlement was approximately 208 days for cases between July and September 2022. However, the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal expects this duration to increase for cases with more complex injuries and longer recovery times.

Professional Representation

Although it’s possible to make a claim independently, many individuals opt for professional representation. This can be through a solicitor or a claims management company.

As of the latest data, a significant majority of claimants (91%) using the OIC portal have some form of representation, predominantly law firms but also including other authorised representatives.

Legal Cover and Insurance

Before seeking paid legal advice, it’s crucial to check whether you have legal cover included in your car insurance policy. Legal cover is not always a standard feature, so confirming its presence or absence with your insurance provider is essential to avoid unnecessary expenses.

If you have legal cover, either as part of your car insurance or as a standalone policy, you might be able to use it to assist with your claim.

Eligibility Criteria

To use the OIC service for a whiplash claim, there are specific criteria that must be met:

  • You must be over 18 years old.
  • The injury must have been sustained inside a car. The service does not cover incidents involving motorbikes, bicycles, or pedestrians.
  • The vehicle responsible for the injury must have a UK registration number.

Making a Claim: A Five-Step Process

Claiming for whiplash injury compensation involves a straightforward five-step process. This process is designed to be user-friendly, allowing claimants to navigate through each stage with relative ease. 

5 Step Claim Process

If you need to make a claim, start by visiting the Official Injury Claim online portal. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process, which typically takes about 20-30 minutes:

  • Prepare Your Details: You’ll need your National Insurance number and the registration numbers of any vehicles involved, if possible.

  • Accident Information: Provide details about the accident and the driver you believe to be responsible. Include information about any police involvement, offering reference numbers where relevant.

  • Evidence and Witness Information: Gather as much evidence as possible, such as dashcam footage, photos, and witness names.

  • Injury and Loss Details: Describe your injuries – the website has resources to assist with this. Also, note any losses you’ve incurred, like damaged belongings, additional travel costs due to a damaged vehicle, or other fees you might claim.

  • Statement of Truth: You’ll need to sign a ‘statement of truth’, confirming your belief that the information you’ve provided is accurate. This is a legal commitment; presenting false information can lead to legal proceedings.

  • Submit Your Claim: Finally, sign and submit your claim.

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Remember, the accuracy and completeness of your claim are crucial, so take your time to provide detailed and truthful information.

Once you have submitted your claim, Official Injury Claim will promptly begin the investigation process. Here’s what happens:

  • Insurance Provider Contact: Your claim, along with all the details you provided, will be forwarded to the insurance provider of the driver you identified as responsible.

  • Confirmation and Checking: The insurance provider will then undertake a thorough review of the accident details. They have 30 working days to complete this process.

  • Fault Assessment: If the insurance provider determines that the accident was not your fault, either fully or partly, the next step involves a medical assessment.

  • Medical Report Requirement: You will be asked to obtain a medical report on your injury. This report is crucial as it serves both as evidence and as a basis for assessing and valuing your claim.

  • Cost Cover: Importantly, the cost of the initial medical report will be covered by the insurance provider.

This process ensures that your claim is investigated fairly and thoroughly, with the support of professional medical evidence to substantiate your case.

After initiating your claim, the next crucial step is to get a medical report. Here’s how it works:

  • Appointment with a Medical Expert: Official Injury Claim will assist you in scheduling an appointment with an approved medical expert in your vicinity.

  • Medical Assessment: During your appointment, the expert will thoroughly examine your injury, make a diagnosis, and provide an estimated healing time.

  • Report Verification: Once the expert has completed their assessment, the medical report will be uploaded onto the system. You will then have the opportunity to review and confirm the accuracy of this report.

  • Report Submission: After your verification, the report is then forwarded to the insurance provider as part of your claim process.

This medical report is a vital component of your claim, ensuring that the extent of your injury and the expected recovery period are properly documented and considered.

Upon thorough review of your claim, the next step involves the compensation offer:

  • Offer Basis: The insurance provider will formulate an offer for compensation. This is based on several factors surrounding your claim, particularly the medical report and any additional losses you have claimed.

  • Fixed Tariff for Whiplash: In cases involving a whiplash injury, the compensation will be calculated according to a fixed tariff system (details provided below).

  • Acceptance or Challenge: Once you receive the offer, you have the option to either accept it or challenge it if you believe it does not adequately compensate for your injuries and losses.

It’s important to carefully consider the offer, keeping in mind the extent of your injuries and the impact they have had on your life.

Once you have made the decision to accept the compensation offer, here’s what happens next:

  • Payment Arrangement: The insurance provider will reach out to you within 10 working days to organise the payment process.

  • Support for Varied Needs: Official Injury Claim acknowledges that not everyone may have access to or be comfortable with using a computer. If you have accessibility needs, are not fluent in English, or prefer communicating in Welsh, you can still easily manage your claim or ask questions.

    • Phone Contact: You can contact Official Injury Claim by phone at 0800 118 1631 for any assistance or to initiate a claim.

This process ensures that receiving your compensation is straightforward and accommodates the needs of all claimants.

For those claimants who either do not have access to a computer, find it challenging to use one, have specific accessibility requirements, or are speakers of a foreign language or Welsh, there is an alternative method available for contacting Official Injury Claim.

You can simply phone on 0800 118 1631 to either ask any questions you might have or to initiate your claim process. This option ensures that everyone, regardless of their circumstances or language proficiency, can access the necessary support for their claim.

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How Much is The Whiplash Injury Tariff Pay-out in The UK?

Overview of Whiplash Injury Tariff Pay-outs

In the United Kingdom, the compensation amounts for whiplash injuries are now fixed and are determined based on the duration of the injury. This system aims to provide a clear and straightforward way to assess compensation for those suffering from whiplash.

How Much Is The Whiplash Injury Tariff Pay-Out In The Uk?

Factors Affecting the Compensation Amount

Contributory Negligence: If an individual has contributed to their injuries, for instance, by not wearing a seatbelt, this can lead to a reduction in the compensation. This is because the claimant is considered partially liable for the consequences of the accident.

Interaction with Social Security Benefits: It’s important to note that if you have received social security benefits following your accident, and later receive a compensation pay-out, you may be required to repay some of these benefits. This repayment is mandated under the social security law and is intended to prevent double compensation for the same injury.

Understanding the Tariff System

The tariff system is designed to categorise whiplash injuries based on their severity and duration. Each category corresponds to a specific fixed compensation amount. This system helps in standardising the compensation process and making it more transparent.

Duration of injury

Whiplash only

Whiplash and minor psychological injury

Not more than three months

£240

£260

More than three months, but not more than six months

£495

£520

More than six months, but not more than nine months

£840

£895

More than nine months, but not more than 12 months

£1,320

£1,390

More than 12 months, but not more than 15 months

£2,040

£2,125

More than 15 months, but not more than 18 months

£3,005

£3,100

More than 18 months, but not more than 24 months

£4,215

£4,345

Legal Advice and Claims Process

It is advisable to seek legal advice when making a claim for whiplash injury compensation. A legal professional can provide guidance on navigating the claims process, understanding the implications of contributory negligence, and dealing with any potential repayments of social security benefits.

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What Happens if I Have Other Injuries as Well as Whiplash?

When involved in an accident that results in both whiplash and other types of injuries, the process for claiming compensation can be more complex. Understanding how to navigate these claims is crucial for receiving appropriate compensation.

What Happens If I Have Other Injuries As Well As Whiplash

Dealing with Mixed Injury Claims

Whiplash and Non-Whiplash Injuries

  • Separate Valuations: If you suffer from whiplash along with other injuries, such as a broken finger, each injury type will need to be valued separately. Whiplash claims have fixed tariffs, while non-whiplash injuries do not.
  • Use of Judicial College Guidelines (JCG): The JCG provides guidelines for the valuation of various non-whiplash injuries. These can serve as a reference for estimating the compensation amount for such injuries.

Seeking Professional Advice

Legal Assistance and Costs

  • Legal Consultation: It’s advisable to seek legal advice for accurately valuing non-whiplash injuries. Costs for this service may vary, and you may need to pay for it.
  • Motor Legal Insurance: If your car insurance policy includes motor legal insurance, it can potentially cover the costs associated with seeking legal advice.

Using the Official Injury Claim Portal

Online Process for Smaller Claims

  • Online Portal for Claims Under £5,000: For claims where the total value is less than £5,000, you can use the online portal provided by Official Injury Claim to file your claim.
  • Guidance Available: The Official Injury Claim’s guide offers detailed instructions and tariff amounts for making a claim through this portal.

Court Process for Larger Claims

Handling Claims Over £5,000

  • Claims Exceeding £5,000: If the combined value of your injury claim exceeds £5,000, the claim falls outside the scope of the online portal and must be processed under traditional rules, which may involve taking your case to court.
  • Working with Legal Professionals: In such cases, partnering with a solicitor or claims company is usually necessary. They can guide you through the legal process and help maximise your claim.
  • Potential Fees: Be aware of potential legal fees involved in these cases. Some solicitors may work on a no-win, no-fee basis, but others may charge upfront costs.

Legal Cover and Insurance Policies

Utilising Insurance for Legal Expenses

  • Legal Cover Insurance: If your policy includes legal cover insurance, it can be used to offset the costs associated with a legal claim. This cover often helps with legal expenses incurred in seeking compensation.
  • Consult Your Insurance Provider: Contact your insurance provider to understand if and how your legal cover can be applied in your specific case.

Navigating the New Whiplash System

Understanding the Recent Changes

  • Evolving Legal Landscape: The legal system for handling whiplash claims, especially mixed claims, is relatively new and still evolving. The specifics of how mixed claims (whiplash and other injuries) are handled are not entirely clear yet.
  • Importance of Legal Advice: Given the uncertainty and complexity of mixed injury claims, getting professional legal advice is often beneficial to ensure you navigate the process correctly.
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Will Claiming for a Whiplash Injury Affect My Car Insurance Premiums in the Future?

Impact on Car Insurance Premiums

Claiming for a whiplash injury can indeed influence the cost of your car insurance premiums in the future. This impact is a general consequence associated with any claim made on your car insurance.

Therefore, even if your claim for a whiplash injury is made against a third party’s insurance provider rather than directly through your own insurer, there is a possibility that your future insurance premiums could increase.

Will Claiming For A Whiplash Injury Affect My Car Insurance Premiums In The Future

Reasons Behind Potential Premium Increases

The rationale behind a potential increase in premiums following a claim is rooted in the insurance industry’s assessment of risk.

When a policyholder makes a claim, insurers may perceive them as being at a higher risk of making further claims in the future. This perception could lead to a rise in premiums, as the insurer aims to balance out the risk of providing cover.

Claiming as a Necessity

Despite the potential for increased premiums, it’s important to remember that the primary purpose of insurance is to offer financial protection and support in times of need, such as following a car accident that results in an injury like whiplash.

Neglecting to claim for a legitimate injury could leave you without necessary financial support for medical expenses or loss of income, outweighing the concern over future premium costs.

Considerations Before Claiming

Before deciding to claim, it is advisable to weigh the pros and cons. Consider the severity of your injury, potential medical costs, and the impact on your personal and professional life.

If the injury is significant, the benefits of claiming will likely surpass the potential increase in insurance costs. It’s also worth consulting with your insurance provider or a financial advisor to understand the specific implications for your policy.

Key Takeaway

While claiming for a whiplash injury can potentially affect your future car insurance premiums, it should not be a deterrent from making a claim when necessary.

Insurance is a safety net for unforeseen events, and its usage should be primarily driven by the need for protection and support in the wake of an accident.

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Frequently asked questions

The term ‘whiplash injury’ is legally defined in the Civil Liability Act 2018, Part 1. This definition characterises whiplash as an injury involving the soft tissue in the neck, back, or shoulder.

It specifically applies to injuries sustained while travelling in a vehicle that is involved in an accident.

However, it’s crucial to note that there are precise legal definitions and criteria that must be met for an injury to be classified as whiplash under this act.

These definitions are important for legal clarity and ensure that claims made for whiplash injuries align with the specifications set out in the legislation.

To be considered a whiplash injury in the context of a claim, the injury must fall within the scope of these legal parameters.

This ensures that both the injured parties and the insurance companies adhere to a standardised understanding of what constitutes a whiplash injury in legal and compensation scenarios.

The UK government introduced the new system for claiming for whiplash with a clear rationale.

Despite the UK boasting some of the safest roads in Europe and a consistent decline in reported crashes since 2013, the number of road traffic accident claims has seen a significant increase, being over 40% higher in recent years compared to 2006.

This surge in claims has been attributed to a noticeable rise in exaggerated and disproportionate claims. Such practices have been a key factor in escalating the cost of insurance premiums for motorists.

In response to this trend, the government has taken a firm stance to address and curb these issues. The objective behind these changes is to clamp down on such exploitative behaviours, with the ultimate goal of reducing the insurance costs for drivers.

This initiative reflects the government’s commitment to ensuring fairness and affordability in the motor insurance market.

When making a claim for whiplash, it’s possible to include a range of associated losses that arise directly as a result of the injury. These can encompass various expenses and financial impacts you’ve endured due to the injury.

Key examples of claimable losses include:

  1. Medical Treatment Costs: This might cover expenses like physiotherapy sessions, costs of prescriptions, and any other medical treatments required due to the whiplash injury.

  2. Loss of Earnings: If your injury necessitated taking time off work, resulting in a loss of income, this can be included in your claim.

To substantiate these claims, you will need to provide evidence, such as receipts for medical treatments, documentation proving loss of earnings, and details of care costs.

Additionally, you can claim for losses related to your vehicle:

  • Repairs: Costs for repairing damages to your vehicle caused by the accident.
  • Temporary Vehicle Hire: Expenses for hiring a vehicle while yours is being repaired.
  • Travel Expenses: Costs incurred if you’re unable to use your vehicle and need alternative transportation.
  • Insurance Excess Payment: Any excess amount paid as part of your vehicle insurance claim.
  • Depreciation in Vehicle Value: The difference in your vehicle’s value before and after the accident.
  • Vehicle Recovery and Storage Charges: Costs for recovering and storing your vehicle post-accident.

It’s important to keep detailed records and receipts of all these expenses to support your claim effectively.

In the process of a compensation claim, the insurance provider of the driver at fault, often referred to as the compensator, may apply certain deductions to your compensation amount.

These deductions can be mandated by law or relate to issues concerning the liability for the accident.

Legally Required Deductions

Some deductions are compulsory under law, such as:

  • Repayment to the Compensation Recovery Unit: If you have received social security benefits following your accident and later receive compensation, there might be a requirement to repay these benefits to the Department of Work and Pensions. This is in accordance with social security laws.
  • Interim Payments: If the compensator has already made an interim payment as part of the compensation, this amount will be deducted from the final settlement.

Deductions Related to Liability

Deductions might also be made based on decisions regarding who was at fault for the accident, such as:

  • Non-Use of Seatbelt: If it’s established that you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, this could lead to a deduction.
  • Partial Liability: In cases where the compensator has not accepted full liability for the accident, a portion of the compensation might be reduced.

Transparency of Deductions

It’s important for the compensator to clearly communicate any deductions, including their nature and the reasons behind them.

This ensures transparency in the compensation process and helps you understand the final compensation amount you receive.

To minimise the risk of sustaining whiplash injuries, certain precautions and vehicle features can be utilised. These measures are particularly effective in enhancing your safety while driving or riding in a vehicle.

Seatbelt and Head Restraint Adjustment

  • Wear Your Seatbelt: Always ensure that you wear your seatbelt. This is a fundamental safety measure that can significantly reduce the risk of severe injuries in the event of an accident.
  • Adjust the Head Restraint Correctly: The head restraint plays a crucial role in preventing whiplash. It should be positioned as high as the top of your head and as close to the back of your head as possible. Ideally, the head restraint should be touching or nearly touching the back of your head. This position helps in limiting the backward movement of the head during a collision.
  • Regular Adjustment for Shared Vehicles: If you share a vehicle with others, it’s important to adjust the headrest each time you use the vehicle, just like you would adjust the seating position. This ensures that the head restraint is always optimally positioned for your height and posture.

Vehicle Features for Enhanced Safety

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) System: Having a car equipped with an AEB system can be a significant preventive measure against whiplash injuries. This advanced system helps in reducing the severity of crashes or preventing them altogether by automatically applying the brakes when a potential collision is detected. When looking to purchase a new or used vehicle, considering a model with an AEB system could be a wise decision for enhanced safety.

By adopting these safety measures and considering vehicles with advanced safety features, you can significantly reduce the risk of whiplash injuries.

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