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August 17th 2018

Road Traffic Accidents

What’s the whiplash claims procedure? (2018 update & law changes)

Jane Woodcock

Jane Woodcock

Senior Legal Executive and Head of Personal Injury

What’s the whiplash claims procedure? (2018 update & law changes)

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained after a road traffic accident and it can cause considerable pain.

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained after a road traffic accident and it can cause considerable pain.

Unfortunately, there are many whiplash victims who suffer in silence and do not claim the compensation for personal injury and financial losses that they are entitled to because they don’t know the proper whiplash claims procedure.

The stigmatism for claiming for whiplash-type injuries can often be the main reason for a person not pursuing a claim. In some cases, genuine claims have not pursued because they “feel guilty” about doing so as a direct result of the negative press coverage which this type of injury has received in recent years.

This is not right. Whiplash is a genuine injury and can cause severe physical pain, phycological symptoms and impact upon a person’s well-being, which has a significant impact on a victim’s life and relationships with colleagues and peers.

At Hudgell Solicitors, we always consider a person’s rehabilitation needs to put them back on the road to recovery and get them back to work as soon as possible.

If you have genuinely suffered a whiplash type injury, you should not feel guilty about seeking compensation and support which can assist you and help you make a speedier recovery.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is the medical term used to describe a soft tissue injury which occurs following a very sudden acceleration and deceleration force. This can happen due to a forward and back motion, snapping the neck or torso back like a whip, or because of a sudden side-to-side movement.

The term whiplash was first used in the medical profession in 1928, referring to damage of the bone structures, soft tissue or both. Not only is it an extremely painful injury, it can often get progressively worse – causing severe discomfort and restricting a person’s ability to drive, work or undertake everyday activities or hobbies.

The most common symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain – difficulty moving up, down or side to side
  • Upper and lower back pain
  • Pain or discomfort in shoulders or arms
  • Pain when walking
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Dizziness, fatigue and nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Psychological symptoms – flashbacks, travel anxiety, avoidance of travel, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms etc.

Even if you have been involved in previous accidents or diagnosed with pre-accident conditions (fibromyalgia, chronic pain, neck & back pain) you may still have a claim to pursue as the accident may have aggravated or accelerated your pre-accident condition.

The whiplash claims law changes – and its effect on your claim (updated July 2018)

The rise of ‘fake’ whiplash claims has seen greater scrutiny placed on cases of this nature, but it is not hard to secure a settlement if you have a genuine injury and sufficient evidence to prove it.

If your accident occurred on or after April 30th 2010 – and the claim is worth between £1,000 and £25,000 – it will be dealt with in accordance with the Low Value Personal Injury Protocol under UK law. This is known as the Portal process. For cases above £25,000 where more serious injuries or losses are being pursued, the claim will be dealt with outside this Low Value Process.

The Government is planning more reforms to reduce the number of ‘fake’ whiplash claims by limiting the amount of compensation payable and increasing the Small Claims Limit.  The Ministry of Justice stated in July 2018 that these reforms would be delayed until at least April 2020.  However, this date could be amended, which is always a reason to pursue your claim sooner rather than later.

From April 2020, there could be:

  • A ban on whiplash claims without medical evidence.
  • Fixed compensation amounts – where whiplash-type injuries affect a person for up to two years.
  • An increase in small claims limit for road traffic accidents from £1,000 to £5,000.

Although these proposed changes are still some way from being implemented, they are expected to complicate the whiplash claims procedure.

At Hudgell Solicitors, we are urging anyone who has suffered a whiplash type injury in the last three years to pursue their case immediately to avoid getting caught up in this new legislation.

Should you require any help to do this, or if you feel you could benefit from free legal advice, please get in touch – we’ll be happy to assess the merits of your case and provide assistance if necessary.

The whiplash claims procedure – what you need to do to claim

Making a whiplash claim is a simple 5-step process which effectively starts at the scene of the accident.

Step1 – Exchange details

Swap contact details with all parties involved and make a note of the number plate. If the incident is a hit and run or a party refuses to provide insurance details, it’s important to report the incident to the police and obtain a crime reference number. Where a party is untraced (hit and run) for the case to be considered by the Motor Insurance Bureau it is a requirement to report the accident to the Police

Step 2 – Gather evidence

Where possible, it’s important to take photographs of the scene and any damage incurred. Also, try to get the contact details of any witnesses as their independent view could help you to build a strong case.

Step 3 – Contact your insurance

If you are the driver of a vehicle, you have a duty to report the accident and the injuries you & your passengers sustained to your insurance company within 24 hours (even if you’re not responsible) to let them know about the incident and explain what’s happened.

Step 4 – Seek medical attention

It is important to seek medical attention (GP, hospital, walk-in-centre) as soon as possible following your accident to report your injuries and seek the appropriate medical advice.  it’s important to monitor your health as the symptoms of whiplash (outlined above) can take a few days to display. If the pain or symptoms can be successfully treated with painkillers or only last a few days, it’s unlikely to be a serious injury. Should they last longer than 7-10 days, you should seek medical advice from your GP, a hospital or walk-in centre to aid your own recovery.  This will also act as a record of your injury and may be referred to later as part of your medical records to prove the injuries you sustained

Step 5 – Get legal advice

Contacting a solicitor will allow you to explain how the accident took place and detail the Injuries you sustained to provide you with the support to seek financial and rehabilitation assistance. It can also help you recover any financial losses you have incurred arising as a result of the injuries you have sustained. Please ensure you retain receipts and documentation to prove your losses as these will be required to pursue reimbursement on your behalf.  Photographs of damaged items will help to prove your loss when your case is presented to the responsible party. At Hudgell Solicitors, we will take care of all the paperwork and keep you updated at every step.

How a lawyer will pursue your whiplash injury claim

Step 1 – Stage in-depth investigations

Once you have confirmed your instructions to act, your solicitor will assess your case and investigate every aspect of the incident to determine who was responsible for causing you to sustain injuries to submit details of your claim to start the claims process.

Step 2 – Arrange a medical examination

At Hudell Solicitors, once liability has been established we will arrange for you to be medically examined by an expert to provide a medico-legal report which will substantiate your claim for personal injury. This report will be used to value your compensation.  If rehabilitation or further investigations are recommended by the expert, we will consider your needs and arrange on a private basis where we can

Step 3 – Rehabilitation

Your rehabilitation needs will be considered at the earliest opportunity to aid your recovery.  Any recommended treatment and aids will be sought where necessary. In accordance with Rehabilitation Code, insurers are required to consider early intervention of treatment to aid recovery.  We will request interim payments, where possible to assist with financial hardship and rehabilitation needs.

Step 4 – Negotiate compensation

Once your medical evidence and losses have been finalised, your solicitor will discuss your settlement options. Negotiations will then take place to secure the best possible award on your behalf.

Step 5 – Conclusion & settlements

At Hudgell Solicitors, we work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis to allow genuine whiplash sufferers to pursue justice without any financial risks. When your claim has been settled, you will usually receive your compensation within a month – minus any agreed deductions.

Step 6 – Going to court

Where cases do not settle during the negotiation process, we will consider commencing court proceedings to maximise the compensation you are to be awarded. In truth, Court proceedings are rare as most settlements are concluded well before it gets to this stage.

Who pays the settlement for a whiplash claim?

In most cases, the insurance company of the driver who was responsible for the accident will pay your compensation.

However, the extra scrutiny which has been placed on whiplash claims means that the solicitors and insurers who represent drivers are being far more cautious about all claims – including genuine ones. They now have to conduct detailed enquiries before accepting fault on behalf of their insured driver.

If a driver is deemed to be uninsured or untraceable, the claim will be pursued against the Motor Insurance Bureau – a Government body set up to compensate victims of road traffic accidents where the responsible driver is either uninsured or untraced.

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