Ian Chiswell, claims controller at QBE Europe
Following a long wait, the whiplash reforms finally came into effect from yesterday (May 31).
The reforms will simplify compensation for victims and clarify processes around claims.
But if your business operates with vehicles on the road, there’s a few things you’ll need to know about the changes.
There is now an official definition for the term ‘Whiplash Injury’ under the reforms:
- A sprain, tear, rupture or lesser damage of a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder, or
- an injury of soft tissue associated with a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder
An increase in the small claims track limit for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for road traffic accident injury claims has been made from £1,000 to £5,000 for accidents on or after May 31, 2021.
There is clearer guidance over the compensation levels to be awarded. There will now be two set tariffs for whiplash injuries up to 24 months.
These tariffs are fixed at lower levels compared to awards made previously:
- A lower tariff under Regulation 2(1)(a), where there is no psychological injury.
- A combined upper tariff under Regulation 2(1)(b), which includes minor psychological injuries.
Individuals injured in a road traffic accident will now be able to use a free online service provided by Official Injury Claim (OIC) to manage their claim directly, rather than involving claims management companies or solicitors.
This OIC portal service will run separately to the existing Ministry of Justice (MoJ) site but will remain integrated with other systems such as the Motor Insurance Database (MID).
Compensators / insurers now have 30 working days to decide on liability, and to have all evidence uploaded to the OIC portal if liability is disputed.
To ensure that an accurate and informed decision can be made regarding liability, compensators will need to receive relevant documents and evidence as early as possible. These may include:
- A signed statement of truth from the defendant driver providing a detailed account of events
- Any dashcam, CCTV or video footage or details of where it can be obtained
- Photographs of the accident scene / damage
- Any independent witness statements or details of witnesses to be contacted
- Tachograph or tracker data if available
- Details of any emergency services that attended, including reference numbers or contact details
- Any additional relevant documents
Failure to comply to the 30 working days deadline will lead to an automatic admission of liability, so it is vital that the MID is kept as up to date as possible to enable correct signposting of claims.
The changes are likely to be welcomed by commercial fleet operators.
Fixed compensation awards, at lower levels than previously, are expected to reduce the cost of claims. And legal costs will no longer be recoverable for most whiplash claims.
This should benefit businesses with vehicles on the road, particularly those operating large commercial motor fleets.
To reap these benefits, it’s important that vehicle operators have the necessary processes in place to notify their insurer as early as possible following an accident, and to be able to provide all the documents and evidence needed to make a prompt decision.
Failure to upload the evidence required within the new timeframe, particularly if liability is disputed, is deemed an automatic admission of liability, so could potentially impact on claims costs.
Fleet operators should make sure they have familiarised themselves with the new process in case of claims.