A guide to whiplash and insurance implications

More than 1,500 whiplash injury claims are made on average every day in the UK. It’s one of the most common insurance claims, but changes have been introduced to the rules around pay-outs to help reduce the number of fraudulent and exaggerated claims that have pushed up insurance costs for drivers. 

If you’ve been unlucky enough to suffer whiplash in a car accident and need to make a claim, here’s what you need to know.

More than 1,500 whiplash injury claims are made on average every day in the UK. It’s one of the most common insurance claims, but changes have been introduced to the rules around pay-outs to help reduce the number of fraudulent and exaggerated claims that have pushed up insurance costs for drivers. 

If you’ve been unlucky enough to suffer whiplash in a car accident and need to make a claim, here’s what you need to know.

Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
8
minute read
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Last Updated 11 JANUARY 2023

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury brought on as a result of a sudden impact. It occurs when the soft tissues of the neck, back and shoulders are sprained or strained. Whiplash injuries typically occur when occupants of vehicles are struck from behind.  
 
Whiplash symptoms include a stiff neck, painful headaches and dizziness, and can take six to 12 hours to develop following an accident.  

Minor cases should resolve themselves within a few days, but more severe cases can cause the sufferer pain and problems for months, or even years, afterwards.

New system for whiplash claims under £5,000

In an effort to reduce the number of fraudulent whiplash claims made, changes to the claims process were implemented in May 2021. 

Firstly, no insurance provider can provide compensation for a whiplash injury without some form of medical proof. 

Secondly, an Official Injury Claim (OIC) online portal was introduced for claims under £5,000 – to eliminate protracted and expensive legal costs, and court cases where liability is disputed – for claims made in England and Wales for accidents that happened on or after 31 May 2021.

Since the launch of the scheme until 30 September 2022, the OIC has had 315,409 claims submitted in total. Around 24,000 claims a month were made between July and September 2022.

Claim types Number of claims
1 July to 30 September 2022
Whiplash only 12,313
Whiplash + minor psychological 7,475
Whiplash + physical 18,691
Whiplash + physical + minor psychological 21,791
Multiple injuries 5,140
Physical only 1,731
Physical + psychological 578

And finally, the amount of compensation you can claim is fixed for minor injuries sustained in a car accident.

The good news is that following the changes in 2021, drivers are predicted to see a decrease of around £35 on their annual car insurance premiums

How to claim for whiplash injury compensation

Whiplash injury claims are only recommended if the accident that caused the injury wasn’t your fault. In this instance, you’ll be raising a claim with the other party’s insurance provider, rather than your own. 

So how do you go about it under the new rules? Well, if your claim is for under £5,000, the process has been simplified so you can make the claim yourself without having to pay for legal help. Just so you know, the average time from claim to settlement was around 208 days for cases in July to September 2022, but the OIC expects this to increase as it sees cases settle with more complex injuries and longer prognoses.

You can still ask a claims professional, such as a solicitor or claims management company, to make the claim on your behalf if you prefer, but they may charge you. In fact, the majority of claimants (91%) going through the OIC have representation of some sort – mostly law firms, but some claimants use other authorised representatives. If you have legal cover as part of your car insurance or as a standalone policy, you may be able to use that to get help to complete your claim.

Before you go down the route of paying for advice, always check if you have it included within your car insurance policy. Legal cover isn’t always included as standard, but it might be so check with your insurance provider first as you don’t want to pay for it twice.

To use the service, you’ll need to be over 18 and must have received your injuries inside a car. You can’t use it if you were, for example, on a motorbike, bicycle or were a pedestrian. The vehicle that caused your injury must also have a UK registration number.

Making the claim yourself is a simple five step process:

1. Make your claim

Go to the Official Injury Claim online portal and give details of your accident and injury. It usually takes around 20-30 minutes to complete the forms. You’ll need: 

  • Your National Insurance number 
  • The registration numbers of any vehicles involved in the accident where possible
  • Information about the driver you consider responsible for the accident
  • Details of police involvement where relevant, such as reference numbers
  • As much information about the accident as possible and any supporting evidence, such as dashcam footage, photos and witness names
  • Information about your injuries – the website offers help with identifying injuries
  • Details of any other losses, such as belongings damaged in the accident, extra travel costs you’ve paid because you can’t use your damaged vehicle or other fees you may be able to claim for.  

You’ll then be asked to sign a ‘statement of truth’ to confirm you believe the information you’ve given is correct. This is a legal requirement and it’s an important step because giving a false statement could lead to court proceedings against you. You’ll then have to sign and submit your claim. 

2. Your claim is investigated

Official Injury Claim will find the insurance provider of the driver you believe to be responsible and pass on your claim information to them. The insurance provider will check and confirm details of the accident within 30 working days. If they agree the accident wasn’t your fault, either entirely or partially, you’ll be asked to get a medical report on your injury for evidence and to help assess and value your claim. The cost of the initial report will be paid for by the insurance provider. 

3. Get a medical report

You’ll need an appointment with an approved medical expert in your local area – Official Injury Claim will help you arrange this. The expert will check your injury, make a diagnosis and give an estimate of how long it will take to heal. Their report is uploaded onto the system for you to check and agree to before it’s passed on to the insurance provider.

4. Receive a compensation offer

The insurance provider will make a compensation offer based on the circumstances of your claim, including the medical report and any other losses you’ve included. If you have a whiplash injury, this will be based on a fixed tariff (see below). You can accept or challenge the offer. 

5. Get your payment

If you accept the offer, the insurance provider will contact you within 10 working days to arrange payment to you. 

It’s also possible for claimants who haven’t got a computer or find using one difficult, have accessibility needs or are a foreign language or Welsh speaker, to contact Official Injury Claim by phone on 0800 118 1631 to ask questions or to make a claim.

It’s also possible for claimants who haven’t got a computer or find using one difficult, have accessibility needs or are a foreign language or Welsh speaker, to contact Official Injury Claim by phone on 0800 118 1631 to ask questions or to make a claim. 

How much is the whiplash injury tariff pay-out in the UK? 

The amounts for whiplash pay-outs are now fixed, based on the length of the injury.

Duration of injury

Whiplash only

Whiplash and minor psychological injury

Not more than three months

£240

£260

More than three months, but not more than six months

£495

£520

More than six months, but not more than nine months

£840

£895

More than nine 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

 

If you’ve some responsibility for your injuries, for example by not wearing a seatbelt, you could find your claim reduced as you’ll be partially liable for what happened.

If you’ve received social security benefits following your accident and you then receive compensation, the benefits may need to be repaid to the Department of Work and Pensions under social security law.

What happens if I have other injuries as well as whiplash? 

As a result of your accident, you may have sustained a whiplash injury and/or a non-whiplash injury (for example, a broken finger). 

There’s no fixed tariff for non-whiplash injuries and you’ll need to consider the valuation of that element of your claim separately. The Judicial College Guidelines (JCG) may help with this or you might want to seek advice, which you may need to pay for. If you have motor legal insurance as part of your car insurance policy, this could help you cover any costs associated with the advice required.

You can see the tariff amounts set out in the guidelines in the Official Injury Claim’s Guide to making a claim

If the potential value of your claim is under £5,000, you can use the online portal. If your claim for injury is more than £5,000, you’ll have to make your claim under the old rules and take your case to court. You’ll need to work with a solicitor or claims company to help you make your claim and there may be fees involved. If you have legal cover insurance, you may be able to use this to help with any claim. Call your provider to see if this is possible under the terms of your policy.

As the whiplash system is fairly new, it’s not yet entirely clear how mixed claims will work. Getting legal advice could be a good idea in these circumstances but, remember, you’ll usually need to pay for it.

Will claiming for a whiplash injury affect my car insurance premiums in the future?

Claiming for a whiplash injury could affect the cost of your car insurance. However, this is the case whenever you make a claim on your car insurance. So even though you’ll be claiming for a whiplash injury from a third party’s insurance provider rather than your own, you might have to pay more for your car insurance in the future.

This shouldn’t be a reason for not claiming, as the entire point of insurance is to use it when the worst happens – such as if you’re involved in an accident and are injured. However, it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re debating whether to claim or not.

Frequently asked questions

What counts as a whiplash injury under the new tariff?

The definition of a ‘whiplash Injury’ is set out by law in the Civil Liability Act 2018, Part 1. Essentially, it’s an injury of soft tissue in the neck, back or shoulder when you’re travelling in a vehicle involved in an accident – but there are clear legal definitions that need to be followed when a claim is made.

Why have the changes to claiming for whiplash been made?

The government said when introducing the new system that despite the UK having some of the safest roads in Europe with fewer crashes reported year-on-year since 2013, road traffic accident claims were more than 40% higher than in 2006. This has been fuelled by a reported increase in exaggerated and often disproportionate claims, driving up the costs of premiums for motorists. The government said it was determined to clamp down on this behaviour and help reduce the cost of insurance for drivers.

What kind of losses can also be claimed for when making a whiplash claim?

You can make a claim for any losses that arise as a result of your injury/injuries. Examples include the cost of any treatment or loss of earnings due to time off work. You’ll need to provide evidence of these losses, such as receipts for physiotherapy treatment sessions, prescription costs, proof of loss of earnings and care costs. 

Other potential losses related to your vehicle that can be claimed for include: 

  • Repairs to your vehicle 
  • Hiring a temporary vehicle 
  • Travel expenses because you can’t use your vehicle 
  • An insurance excess payment 
  • Any difference in the value of your vehicle before and after the accident 
  • Vehicle recovery and storage charges. 

What deductions can be made from a compensation claim?

Sometimes the insurance provider of the driver you’re claiming against, known as the compensator, will make deductions from your offer. Some deductions must be made by law and some will be to do with decisions about liability for the accident. For example: 

  • Deductions that must be made by law include where the compensator needs to repay certain elements of the claim to the Compensation Recovery Unit (if you receive social security benefits after your accident and then receive compensation, the benefits may need to be repaid to the Department of Work and Pensions under social security law)  or where they’ve already made an interim payment.  
  • Deductions for liability may be made if you’ve confirmed you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident or because the compensator has not accepted liability in full. 

Any deductions and the reason for them should be made clear by the compensator. 

How can I avoid possible whiplash injuries?

Make sure you wear your seatbelt and adjust the head restraint correctly. It should be as high as the top of your head and as close to the back of your head as possible – preferably touching. If you share a vehicle with someone, remember to adjust your headrest every time you use the vehicle like you would the seating position. 
 
Having a car with an autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system can also help, so you might want to add this to your list of requirements when buying a new or used vehicle. 

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