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Making a whiplash claim - what you need to know

All you need to know about whiplash, the claims procedure and how it impacts your insurance.

Driver rubbing neck after car accident, with possible whiplash

One of the most controversial aspects relating to motoring and car insurance today is how people who suffer whiplash after a car accident are compensated.

The extent of a whiplash or other soft-tissue injury is more difficult to assess than, say, a broken leg.

There’s a great deal of concern that a large proportion of whiplash compensation claims are either exaggerated or invented for financial gain.

To crack down on this, legislation was passed in 2018 that aimed to clamp down on whiplash claims.

But the fact remains that whiplash injuries are frequently suffered in road accidents, and in many cases they can cause significant long-term pain and discomfort.


What is whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head.

It usually lasts for up to three months.

It most commonly happens after a fall or a traffic accident.

Whiplash can often be caused by a rear-end collision, so always watch out for and be cautious when dealing with a tailgater

It can also sometimes happen as a result of sudden breaking. For example, when trying to avoid hitting an animal on the road.

Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, difficulty moving your head, headaches and shoulder pain.

The reason it’s a condition that has been so easy to abuse by fraudsters is that it can be difficult to diagnose.

Much of the diagnosis relies on the honesty of the patient.

It can take several hours after an incident for the symptoms to develop.

So, con artists can claim that that’s why they didn’t report the injury at the time of the accident.


How do I claim for whiplash?

If you have whiplash you can claim on your car insurance by contacting your insurer. 

Although with whiplash this might be something you inform them about later as sometimes there’s a delay in symptoms appearing.

But you’ll need to get medical evidence for the claim to be processed, thanks to new rules introduced in 2021.

This is also the case if you suffer whiplash in a multi-car accident – it’s your own insurer you contact.

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How much compensation can I claim for whiplash?

Under the new rules, payouts for whiplash that lasts up to three months is capped at £240.

This figure rises in stages to £4,215 for an injury that last for up to two years.

There are small ‘add-ons’ if you have suffered minor psychological injuries as a result of the accident.

The courts have the power to increase a payout by up to 20% in exceptional cases.


Compensation for a whiplash claim

Regardless of who was responsible for the whiplash you’ve suffered, you may be entitled to compensation from an insurance company if the injury is particularly serious and long-lasting.

This compensation may address any pain or discomfort you suffer as well as any financial losses, such as if you need to take time off work to recover.

As with any claim for damages, it’s important to gather as much evidence as possible.

This should include photos and witness details or statements from the accident itself as well as medical reports about your injuries.

The insurance company for the party responsible for the accident may offer an out-of-court settlement which you are free to accept or reject.

If your accident involved an uninsured driver, things can get a bit more complicated but you may be able seek compensation from the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB).

The MIB was set up to help compensate victims of accidents caused by drivers who either aren't insured or can't be found.

There are scores, if not hundreds, of legal firms in the UK that will offer to help you negotiate a claim or take your case to court.

Typically, they’ll operate on a no-win, no-fee basis: this means you pay them their fees out of any settlement you receive.


Whiplash compensation rules

In 2021, new rules on whiplash claims came into force.

The government said the changes were aimed at reducing the “unacceptably high number of whiplash claims made each year”, with more than half a million claims being made in 2019/20 alone.

This, in turn, will enable insurers to cut car insurance premiums, with the government saying insurers had pledged to pass on the savings to their customers.

It’s thought the savings from the excessive whiplash claims could amount to £1.2bn a year, which means policies could be cut by an average of £35.

Included in the changes is a system for whiplash compensation, which means a fixed amount of compensation is paid out.

Insurers are also prohibited from making settlements for whiplash unless they've seen medical evidence of such injuries.


Can a whiplash claim be refused?

Your insurer will process and consider your claim as it does with all claims.

There was a time when some people thought a whiplash claim would automatically be nodded through.  

But tightening of the rules means that you now need to produce evidence that you have genuinely suffered whiplash.

If you don’t have the right medical certificate, or your insurer thinks the accident was staged, it has the right to refuse a payout.