As we enter the coldest period of the year, we learn to expect snow and ice on our roads. The frequency of car accidents increases by 20% in the winter months (Insure the Box Limited, 2015). This can be attributed to a number of factors, for example, braking distances can increase tenfold on ice compared with a dry road (RAC, 2022). Preparing and anticipating are key for driving safely in icy conditions, reducing speed and fitting winter tyres can both go a long way in reducing the risk of driving in the winter.
Unfortunately, not every accident can be prevented regardless of how much care is given. The very nature of driving on the road means that there is always one variable that cannot be controlled, other drivers. In the event that you are injured in an accident that was not your fault, you are entitled to be compensated for your injuries. However, recently the law on low-value road traffic personal injury claims has changed.
A Change in the Law
On 31 May 2021, the new ‘Whiplash’ reforms came into effect. Under the new reforms, all whiplash and minor psychological injuries lasting less than two years are compensated under a fixed tariff, determined by the duration of the injury.
These reforms also saw the road traffic accident small claims limit increased from £1,000 to £5,000. This means that claims valued at less than £5,000, it is the responsibility of each party to pay their own legal costs, and these are not recoverable from the Defendants. These reforms have meant that essentially, solicitors no longer get paid for road traffic claims which fall within the small claims track, unless the injured party is a vulnerable road user or otherwise exempt.
Vulnerable road users include:
These parties are unaffected by the new reforms and thus, we as solicitors can act on their behalf and recover legal costs from the Defendants.
Children, those who lack mental capacity, and those who are declared bankrupt, are also exempt from the small claims limit increase.
Benefit to Insurers
Many commentators have criticised these reforms for making it more difficult for the victims of an accident to be rightly compensated for their injuries. One outcome that is certain; this greatly benefits the insurers of the party at fault. When introducing these reforms, the Government promised that the insurers will pass on their savings to their customers through reduced premiums. Insurers must provide evidence of these savings by October 2023. The Government will then produce a report on how these reforms have directly benefits consumers, a report that will make for very interesting reading for those of us who are yet to feel the benefit of lower premiums.
If you have any questions about the new whiplash reforms, or any advice on road traffic accidents, please call our personal injury team on 0113 284 5000.