Ian Chiswell, claims controller at QBE Europe
After a long wait, the whiplash reforms finally came into effect yesterday (May 31).
The reforms will simplify compensation for victims and clarify the processes relating to compensation claims.
But if your business operates with vehicles on the road, there are a few things you need to know about the changes.
There is now an official definition of the term whiplash in the reforms:
- A sprain, tear, break or less injury of a muscle, tendon or ligament in the neck, back or shoulder, or
- a soft tissue injury 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 pleasure for traffic accident injury claims has been raised from Â£ 1,000 to Â£ 5,000 for accidents occurring on the 31st May 2021 or after.
There are clearer indications on the levels of remuneration to be awarded. There will now be two fixed rates for whiplash up to 24 months.
These prices are set at lower levels compared to previous allocations:
- A lower rate under Regulation 2 (1) (a), where there is no psychological harm.
- A combined higher rate under Regulation 2 (1) (b), which includes minor psychological injuries.
People injured in a traffic accident will now be able to use a free online service provided by Official Injury Claim (OIC) to directly manage their claim, rather than involving claims management companies or lawyers.
This OIC portal service will operate separately from the existing Ministry of Justice (MoJ) site but will remain integrated with other systems such as the Automobile Insurance Database (MID).
Compensators / insurers now have 30 working days to decide on liability and for all evidence to be uploaded to the OIC portal if liability is disputed.
To ensure that an accurate and informed decision can be made regarding liability, clearers should receive the relevant documents and evidence as soon as possible. These may include:
- A signed statement of truth from the defendant driver providing a detailed account of the events
- Any dashcam, CCTV or video footage or details on where it can be obtained
- Photographs of the accident / damage site
- Any independent witness statement or contact details of witnesses to contact
- Tachograph or tracker data if available
- Details of participating emergency services, including reference numbers or contact details
- Any other relevant document
Failure to comply with the 30 working day deadline will result in automatic recognition of liability, so it is essential that the MID is kept as up to date as possible to allow proper reporting of complaints.
The changes should be welcomed by commercial fleet operators.
Fixed indemnities, at lower levels than before, should reduce the cost of claims. And legal fees will no longer be recoverable for most whiplash claims.
This should benefit companies with vehicles on the road, especially those that operate large fleets of commercial vehicles.
To take advantage of these benefits, it is important that vehicle operators have the necessary processes in place to notify their insurer as soon as possible after an accident and be able to provide all the documents and evidence necessary to make a quick decision.
Failure to upload the required evidence within the new deadline, especially if liability is contested, is considered an automatic admission of liability, which could potentially impact the costs of claims.
Fleet operators should ensure that they are familiar with the new process in the event of a complaint.