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A guide to claiming for whiplash and insurance implications

Whiplash is one of the most common personal injury claims. Here’s what you need to know about claiming for whiplash.

Whiplash is one of the most common personal injury claims. Here’s what you need to know about claiming for whiplash.

Written by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
Last Updated
12 JULY 2024
8 min read
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What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden impact. It occurs when the soft tissues of the neck, back and shoulders are sprained or strained. Whiplash injuries typically happen when occupants of vehicles are struck from behind.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Whiplash symptoms include:

  • A stiff neck
  • Painful headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Pain and muscle spasms in the shoulders and arms.

Symptoms 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.

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.

Since May 2021, the process of making claims for under £5,000 has been simplified so you can make the claim yourself without having to pay for legal help.

You can do this through the Official Injury Claim (OIC) online portal. This aims to eliminate lengthy, expensive legal costs and court cases where liability is disputed.

You can still ask a claims professional, such as a solicitor or claims management company, to make the claim for whiplash on your behalf if you prefer, but they may charge you.

In fact, the majority of claimants (90%) going through the OIC have representation of some sort – mostly law firms, but some claimants use other authorised representatives.

Who can use the Official Injury Claim service?

The service can be used for claims made in England and Wales for accidents that happened on or after 31 May 2021.

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.

Your injury claim can’t be over £5,000 and the total value of your claim – including additional costs for say a replacement car or medical treatment – can’t be more than £10,000.

Be aware that no insurance provider can provide whiplash injury compensation without some form of medical proof.

Top tip

If you have legal cover as part of your car insurance or as a standalone policy, you might be able to use that to get help to complete your claim. Check your policy to see if you have it before you pay for advice.

Making the claim yourself is a 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 whiplash 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 whiplash injury compensation, the insurance provider will contact you within 10 working days to arrange payment to you.

If you need additional support with using the service, contact Official Injury Claim by phone on 0800 118 1631 to ask questions or to make a claim.

If you need additional support with using the service, contact Official Injury Claim by phone on 0800 118 1631 to ask questions or to make a claim.

How long does a whiplash claim take?

It varies, but it could take between four and six months, depending on the injury and whether the other driver’s insurance provider accepts liability.

How much can you claim for whiplash?

The amount you can claim for whiplash is 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 had some responsibility for your injuries, for example, by not wearing a seatbelt, you could find your whiplash claim reduced as you’ll be partially liable for what happened.

In some circumstances, if you’ve received state benefits following your accident your whiplash compensation might be reduced.

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) might 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.

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 and the total value of your claim more than £10,000, you’ll need to seek advice.

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

Claiming for whiplash could affect the cost of your car insurance. Even though you’ll be making a whiplash insurance claim from a third party’s insurance provider rather than your own, you might find your premium goes up in the future.

This shouldn’t be a reason for not claiming for whiplash, 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.

Frequently asked questions

What counts as a whiplash injury?

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.

What kind of losses can also be claimed for when claiming for whiplash?

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. For example:

  • Deductions if you’ve received benefits from the Compensation Recovery Unit.
  • Deductions for liability if you’ve confirmed you weren’t 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 do I claim for whiplash as a passenger?

You can submit a claim via the Official Injury Claim provided the value of your injury claim isn’t over £5,000 and the total value of your claim isn’t more than £10,000. If your claim is for more than this, you’ll need to seek further advice.

Can I drive with whiplash?

You shouldn’t drive until you can turn your head quickly, so you’ll need to wait until any neck pain and stiffness recedes enough to make this possible. If you’re not sure whether you should drive, check with your insurance provider.

How can I avoid possible whiplash injuries?

There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from whiplash injuries:

  • Make sure you wear your seatbelt
  • 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, 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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