If you have been diagnosed with a whiplash-related injury as a result of a road traffic accident, you need to know that your rights to make a No Win No Fee whiplash compensation claim will, if the government gets its way, be vastly reduced from October 2018.
Once again, people suffering whiplash have been turned into the whipping boys of those who would wish to prohibit all No Win No Fee claims and reduce access to justice. Indeed, the compensation culture myth has largely described all whiplash injury claimants as being dishonest, and many of those who oppose claimants – such as the insurance sector – still claim that whiplash is a made up injury.
Back in 2013, at the behest of the insurance industry, government tightened up the regulations on claims marketing and fee payments, because insurers said it would enable them to save money and pass savings to motorists. Predictably, they did not stop there and again set about portraying whiplash claimants as cheats and ‘blaggers’.
Again, Parliament is debating some huge changes to the law that will have a direct effect on anyone wishing to pursue such a claim, and the government review has now set its position on personal injury compensation going forward.
Minimum injury losses
All claimants will now have to have minimum injury losses exceeding £2,000 to be able to pursue a claim on a Conditional Fee Agreement (No Win No Fee) basis. This rises to £5,000 for soft tissue injuries.
Currently, an injured person has to demonstrate injury losses exceeding £1,000 before they are able to pursue a No Win No Fee claim. If the injury value is under that, they must deal directly with the insurers, or pursue the matter via the small claims process.
Government is now saying that post October 2018, if your injuries are less than £5,000 (which is a substantial sum in the matter of whiplash valuations) it will not be possible to instruct a specialist solicitor to pursue the claim as they will not be able to reclaim ANY legal costs from the defendant insurer. When the value reaches or exceeds £5,000 injury value, they will be able to use a No Win No Fee solicitor as it will be possible for the solicitor to reclaim most of the costs from the defendant insurer if the claim succeeds.
Punished for the actions of a few
Whilst Direct2Compensation agree that whiplash injury claims need attention due to a small but dangerous element of fraud, we don’t agree with the government’s proposals. The very nature of the ‘changes’ desired by the Ministry of Justice fails to address the fraud issue in any way and simply damages the rights of all whiplash injury claimants – the vast, vast majority of whom are completely legitimate, honest and deserving of compensation. It is not right or fair to expect such injury victims to take on mighty insurance companies without legal representation.
Being able to use the services of a specialist whiplash injury solicitor means claimants receive a settlement value that fully and fairly compensates them for their loss. Unfortunately, people that claim directly with an insurer often report lower value settlements and a complex and stressful process to get to that point.
Why No Win No Fee is such a vital option in law
Legal matters are expensive and most people are cannot afford to instruct a solicitor with their own money. Providing a No Win No Fee option in personal injury law has enabled many people to pursue their right to claim compensation when they have been injured through no fault of their own.
No Win No Fee lets someone with a valid and viable claim discuss the matter with a specialist solicitor. This solicitor is then able to (if they believe the claim has sufficient merit on liability and value) pursue the claim on the basis that the client does not pay the fees if the claim were to fail, but that if they succeed, the costs will be met largely by the defendant and 25% deduction from the claimants compensation. Therefore, No Win No Fee provides access to justice for all – regardless of personal financial circumstances.
How will whiplash claim changes affect me?
At the moment, whiplash compensation settlements are reached on the basis of medical evidence and case law. This means there are no prescribed or tariffed values, and claimants are able to seek a settlement that fairly matches the circumstance of their whiplash injury. Going forward, the government propose a very serious change to this process.
If and when the proposals come in to force, not only will anyone with a claim under £5,000 in value be unable to pursue a No Win No Fee claim, they will have to act via the small claims courts and without a specialist solicitor. To further compound things, there will be a tariff system in place with prescribed claim settlement values that are drastically lower than those currently available.
As a possible example, a whiplash claim that at this time would see a settlement value of around £2,000 would become a maximum settlement value of around £400.00 – less than a quarter of what is available now. This shows the stark changes facing any person looking to make a claim for whiplash compensation after October 2018.
Whiplash injuries can bring debilitating symptoms and massively affect quality of life for a long time. You have three years in which you can make a claim. With the government proposing to introduce their changes to whiplash compensation in October 2018, anyone suffering now needs to strongly consider making their claim before the ban on No Win No Fee whiplash claims under £5,000 in value comes in.