New whiplash rules – how do they impact claimants?

On 31st May 2021, the whiplash reforms contained in the Civil Liability Act 2018 came into effect with the obvious mission to clamp down on the number of claims arising from road traffic accidents and to reduce the cost of those claims to the insurance industry.

What are the whiplash changes?

Until now, any claim for injury (pain, suffering and loss of amenity), however it arose, fell outside the small claims court provided the value exceeded £1,000.  What that meant in practical terms was that the injured person could instruct a solicitor to handle the claim and their legal costs would, in large part, be paid by the other party’s insurance company.

The whiplash reforms have increased this small claims limit to £5,000 for all road traffic accident (“RTA”) claims where the claimant has suffered a whiplash injury.  This means that any RTA whiplash claim that has a value of less than £5,000 will fall within the small claims limit and the claimant will not be able to recover his legal costs from the party at fault.

These changes only affect RTAs occurring after 31st May 2021.  Any motoring accidents that occurred before this date will continue to fall under the old provisions even if the claim itself is brought after the 31st May 2021.  

What is a whiplash injury?

A whiplash injury is defined in the Act as “an injury of soft tissue in the neck, back or shoulder that is 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.”  In simple terms, a jarring type injury to the neck, back or shoulder.

What are the exceptions?

The following will not be affected by the reforms and will continue to have a small claims limit of £1,000:

  • All injury claims, even RTA whiplash claims, for children and those lacking legal capacity (known as “protected parties”);
  • Claims by road users other than drivers such as motor cyclists and pillion passenger, cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders, mobility scooter users;
  • Claims by an undischarged bankrupt;
  • Claims on behalf of someone who has died;
  • Claims against drivers of foreign registered vehicles.

How much compensation under the new whiplash rules?

The second major change brought in by the whiplash reforms is the introduction of a tariff system for valuing whiplash claims.  The tariffs that have been set are substantially lower than the amounts that have been recoverable up to now.

There are now two tariffs: a combined upper one for a whiplash that also has an element of minor psychological injury and a simple lower one where there is no psychological injury.  The tariff that is applicable to any injury is determined primarily by the time it takes for the injured person to recover:


Duration of injury


Lower tariff Upper tariff
Not more than 3 months £240 £260
More than 3 months but not more than 6 months £495 £520
More than 6 months but not more than 9 months £840 £895
More than 9 months but not more than 12 months £1,320 £1,390
More than 12 months but not more than 15 months £2,040 £2,125
More than 15 months but not more than 18 months £3,005 £3,100
More than 18 months but not more than 24 months £4,215 £4,345


An uplift of 20% can be sought in “exceptional circumstances”.

How we help Claimants

We can continue to help you secure compensation in many situations where the whiplash reforms do not apply.  This means not only that we can take the stress away from you by handling your claim from start to finish but also that your compensation will not be limited by the very small fixed tariff amounts set out above and we can work towards achieving the very best outcome for you.  These situations include:

  • If your accident occurred before 31 May 2021;
  • If you were a pedestrian, cyclist or motor cyclist;
  • If the injured person is a child or other protected party;
  • If you are acting on behalf of a person who has died;
  • If the driver at fault was driving a foreign registered vehicle;
  • If your whiplash injury lasts more than 2 years;
  • If your injury involves other more serious injuries e.g., fracture or serious soft tissue injuries to other parts of the body such as hand, foot, leg, arm, face etc;
  • Where the overall claim for both injury (pain and suffering) and any out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., loss of earnings) totals more than £10,000;
  • If your injury occurred in some way other than as a motorist e.g., an accident at work, on the highway or some other public place or as a result of inadequate medical care and treatment.

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