Law firms still intending to run lower-value road traffic accident claims have been given a start date for seismic changes to the market.
Rules amendments published by the Ministry of Justice confirm that the new whiplash portal will come into force on 31 May, and will handle all RTAs happening on or after that day.
The portal will be designed to handle claims from unrepresented claimants. This is necessary because the small claims limit is rising to £5,000, meaning that costs are no longer recoverable for claims below that figure.
Firms that continue to run such claims will be taking deductions from damages significantly lower than current levels. Draft statutory instruments confirm that total damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity will be limited to £240 for injuries lasting not more than three months. The levels rise 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.
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 that the person’s circumstances increase the pain, suffering or loss of amenity.
While the legislative changes apply only to RTA claims, the government has said it is ‘still committed’ to increasing the small claims limit to £2,000 for employers’ liability and public liability claims at some point.
Richard Miller, head of justice at the Law Society, said the date confirmation was welcome but more detail is still needed on how the portal will work. ‘More information is needed on how easy the court process will be for claimants if the insurer denies liability or if they want to challenge their level of compensation,’ added Miller.
National Accident Helpline, which previously acted as a marketing collective for RTA claims to firms, has said it will now process these through its own law firm, as well an increasing volume of non-RTA claims.