New changes for those injured in road traffic accidents are unrealistic, says experienced solicitor


New laws meaning people will have to pursue their own claims over certain whiplash injuries in road traffic accidents have been branded unrealistic by a Shropshire legal expert.

The changes come into effect on May 31 and relate to the amount paid towards an injured person’s legal costs and how compensation is calculated for what are commonly described as whiplash injuries.

The aim is to try and reduce the amount of fraudulent claims and cut insurance premiums but Phillip Roberts, a personal injury solicitor at Lanyon Bowdler, said it was likely to make it more difficult for genuine claimants to access the justice and compensation they deserve.

He said:

“Two significant changes are coming into force for those unfortunate to be injured in a road traffic accident. The first relates to the contribution which the defendant, or more usually their insurers, have to pay towards the injured person’s legal costs, and the second to how compensation is calculated.

“Currently, the claim for the injuries has to be worth in excess of £1,000 for the insurers to have to contribute towards the injured person’s legal costs. For the vast majority of cases that figure will rise to £5,000, a five-fold increase.

“At the same time, a tariff system is being introduced to determine the value of such claims and this will lead to a significant reduction in the levels of compensation recovered.

“At the bottom end of the tariff system is a fixed figure of £240 for those people who suffer a whiplash injury which takes up to three months to settle.

“Under the current system for valuing injuries, the same person would be entitled to receive up to £2,300 - so we are talking about a reduction of almost 90 per cent.

“For a whiplash claim to be worth more than £5,000 under the new system, the symptoms would have to last for more than two years.”

Phillip added:

“The practical effect of this on those injured is that it will be uneconomical to instruct a solicitor to deal with the claim in the way they would now, so they will have to deal with it themselves, or make a significant contribution to their legal costs. The only good news is that it only applies to accidents on or after May 31.

“An online portal has been designed which is meant to assist people to pursue their own claims and a guide of no less than 64 pages has been issued.

“I have been doing this type of work for almost 20 years and have just about got my head around it all. I think it is completely unrealistic to expect people to deal with these claims on their own.”

Phillip said it was difficult to see how the changes would meet the targets of reducing fraudulent claims and insurance premiums.

“I have not seen anything likely to achieve that and even heard one barrister explain recently that it will actually make it harder for insurers to fight fraudulent claims,”

he added.

“As to whether it will reduce insurance premiums, according to data published by the Government, during 2020 the number of personal injury claims following road traffic accidents fell by 47 per cent compared with 2019 - yet over the same period, car insurance premiums fell by just one per cent.

“The reforms are based on a promise by insurers to pass on to customers any savings made but, based on these figures, I just cannot see that happening.

“It is about time insurers admitted that rising car insurance premiums have very little to do with personal injury claims and the Government started thinking about the rights of those who have been injured by someone else’s negligence.

“How can it be right that someone who suffers a three-month whiplash injury following a road traffic accident receives £240 and has to deal with the claim themselves, yet someone who suffers exactly the same injury following, for example a fall at work, receives up to £2,300 and the assistance of a solicitor?”