The term 'whiplash' can relate to any neck injury or sprain incurred by a sudden jerk or movement. Whiplash is a common injury in many traffic accidents - in fact, whiplash accounts for 80% of the UK's personal injury claims.
As a result of a rise in whiplash claims, the average car insurance premium has increased by an estimated £93. This trend and the surge in apparent 'false claims' has not gone unnoticed, and has led to the Government planning reform with the hope of reducing the sheer number of whiplash compensation claims.
Whilst it was put on the backburner as more pressing Brexit discussions took place, this reform now appears to be firmly back on the political agenda for this year.
A blurred line
The complexity of assessing the extent and persistence of injury in whiplash claims is not helped by the fact that it is not easy to establish the extent of a whiplash injury straightaway.
In most cases it usually takes six to nine months for the injury to naturally heal; however, for some the injury can become permanent. For others, not seeking treatment early on can cause initially minor symptoms to progress to more severe, long-term damage.
The complexity in assessing the validity of whiplash claims has meant that steps now need to be taken to ensure that only those who have been most severely affected are awarded the higher compensation amounts.
The proposed changes
The Government have recently announced they are planning to reform the claims process for whiplash. Changes in the pipeline include:
- introducing a predetermined pay-out amount for any temporary injuries that last less than two years;
- increasing the small claims track limit to £5,000 for traffic accident-related claims;
- encouraging claimants to utilise the small claims court instead of going through a legal firm, to reduce the significant legal fees currently being awarded in claims.
This reform's aim is to reduce the vast number of whiplash claims, especially the false ones, and to reduce the scale of pay-outs.
For those who have genuinely been injured, they are still perfectly entitled to claim, although the way in which they need to claim may change.
It is important for claimants to seek legal advice so that they are clearly aware of the process for making a compensation claim for a whiplash injury, and whether they qualify to take the case further.
Whilst this remains under discussion, it is likely that the changes will be enforced within the coming 12 to 18 months - meaning that the legal profession will experience a significant shift in the way that they deal with future whiplash injury claims.
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