The government has confirmed that legislation paving the way for whiplash reforms will come into force from 31 May.
Newly-published draft statutory instruments have also finally indicated the tariff levels at which damages will be set for soft tissue injuries suffered in road traffic accidents.
The total damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity payable is limited to £240 for injuries not lasting more than three months. The levels increase incrementally for every extra three months that injuries continue, reaching £4,215 for cases where injuries continue up to 24 months.
A small fixed amount is added to the tariff to cover ‘minor’ psychological injuries suffered on the same occasion as the whiplash injury.
Where a person suffers more than one whiplash injury through the same incident, the injury with the longest duration will apply.
The legislation allows for an uplift of up to 20% in ‘exceptional circumstances’, where a court may determine that damages should be greater than the tariff allows. In these cases, the court must be satisfied that the whiplash injury is ‘exceptionally severe’ or where the person’s circumstances increase the pain, suffering or loss of amenity.
Today’s amendments to the Civil Procedure (Amendment No.2) Rules 2021, which will establish how the new whiplash portal will work, confirm they come into force on 31 May.
All RTA claims worth less than £5,000 will drop into the portal, which is designed to be accessed by litigants in person, and any legal costs incurred will not be recoverable. Claimants must state in the claim form whether they expect to recover more or less than £5,000.
As expected, claims involving children and protected parties are not to be allocated to the small claims track.
The new rules, which can be found here, include provisions on obtaining a second medical expert report and claims which do not continue under the RTA small claims protocol.
The Law Society said it was helpful to have clarity about the start date but pointed out that compensation tariffs have been set far lower than the judicial guidelines currently allow.
Head of justice Richard Miller said: ‘Solicitors and other key stakeholders urgently need more detail on how the portal will work in practice so they can prepare for the changes.
‘For example, more information is needed on how easy to use the court process will be for claimants if the insurer denies liability or if they want to challenge their level of compensation.’
Mark Shepherd, assistant director and head of general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers, said publication of the statutory instruments was an ‘important step towards implementing the long-awaited whiplash reforms’.
He added: ‘This is a big win for consumers, the result of much hard work by the industry with a number of administrations over the years, to ensure that meaningful steps are taken to control the costs of the whiplash claims, whilst ensuring proportionate compensation is paid to genuinely injured claimants.’