In the eyes of the media, whiplash has a bad reputation. But those who’ve suffered whiplash know it can be a crippling injury that results in you having to put your life on hold.
Whiplash typically refers to a specific type of neck injury that’s caused by a sudden jolt or jerk, causing the tissues in the neck to move quickly and beyond their natural range of motion.
It’s normal for symptoms of whiplash to appear a couple of days after the accident that caused the injuries. In fact, the time it takes for the injury to have an impact can vary from 12 hours to a couple of days after.
Because whiplash is typically a soft tissue injury affecting the ligaments, tendons and muscles in the neck, the pain can get increasingly worse.
It’s not uncommon for whiplash injuries to result in more than a sprain. For example, your accident may have caused a fracture in your neck, or caused damage to your spine.
Fractures and spinal injuries can be particularly serious and can even lead to lifelong pain, so if you’re concerned you should seek medical attention as soon as symptoms appear.
Typical symptoms of whiplash and neck injuries include:
Claiming may not be the first thing somebody thinks about when suffering whiplash, but compensation can really help you get back to where you were before your injury.
For example, it’s quite likely that you’ve had to take time off work. This may be the result of being unable to work due restricted movement or because you’re simply in too much pain, but either way it’s likely you’ll have received less pay.
If you’re thinking of making a claim, the first step is relatively straightforward – simply use one of the secure online forms on this page or call a legal adviser free on 0800 234 6438.
From there, you’ll speak to an expert about your accident and resulting injuries. They’ll advise you whether you have a claim, and can pass you on to a personal injury solicitor to handle your case.
Your accident may have been the result of a car, motorcycle or bicycle accident. Each of these can lead to a sudden and serious jolt to your neck – causing lasting pain.
Suffering an accident while on the road can also leave you without transport to and from the doctors or hospital. You may have been left out of pocket due to the costs of alternative travel, such as public transport or taxis.
Claiming for whiplash can recover compensation to reimburse you for the costs of being injured, and can provide you with additional funds to get the medical treatment (such as physiotherapy, osteopathy or counselling) you need to help you fully recover.
If you were in an accident as a passenger, either on public transport or in a private vehicle, then you can still make a claim.
Your claim will be against whoever was responsible for your injury and accident, which may be the person who was driving at the time. This can make many people feel hesitant about recouping the costs of their injury. However, road traffic accident claims are usually made against the insurance company of the person responsible, meaning the driver isn’t left out of pocket.
Every case is different, so it’s difficult to say exactly how much you’ll receive if you win. However, there are guideline amounts that judges use to decide how much compensation to award for pain and suffering. These figures don’t include compensation for lost earnings, medical expenses, etc. The example amounts below are taken from the 15th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases.
|Injury Type||Description||Compensation Amount|
|Severe Neck Injury (I)||Injuries including incomplete paraplegia, permanent spastic quadriparesis, limitation of movement and/or severe headaches.||Around £139,210|
|Severe Neck Injury (II)||Serious fractures or injuries to discs in the cervical spine which cause disabilites less severe than those listed above, but lead to limited movement of the neck or one or more limbs.||£61,710 – £122,860|
|Severe Neck Injury (III)||Injuries such as fractures or dislocations, or serious soft tissue damage and/or ruptured tendons which lead to permanent disability.||£42,680 – £52,540|
|Moderate Neck Injury (I)||Fractures or dislocations causing immediate symptoms and which may require spinal fusion. Includes soft tissue injuries to the neck, and injuries which limit function or leave the victim vulnerable to further trauma.||£23,460 – £36,120|
|Moderate Neck Injury (II)||Soft tissue or wrenching-type injuries, or severe disc lesions resulting in cervical spondylosis, limitation of movement, permanent or intermittent pain, stiffness or discomfort. Includes injuries which exacerbate existing conditions for a period of five years or more.||£12,900 – £23,460|
|Moderate Neck Injury (III)||Moderate soft tissue injuries which have taken several months/years to heal. Accidents which have exacerbated an existing injury for a shorter period of time, usually less than five years.||£7,410 – £12,900|
|Minor Neck Injury (I)||Soft tissue injuries where a full recovery is made within one to two years.||£4,080 – £7,410|
|Minor Neck Injury (II)||Soft tissue injuries where a full recovery is made within several months to a year.||£2,300 – £4,080|
|Minor Neck Injury (III)||Soft tissue injuries where a full recovery is made within a few months.||Up to £2,300|
Changes to the way claims are made for whiplash were introduced on 31st May 2021. The new rules were brought in to reduce the number of fraudulent or exaggerated claims. The main differences are an increase in the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000 and whiplash injuries being subject to lower, fixed compensation payouts depending on severity. You can read more about the changes here.
If you were partially to blame for your whiplash injury (for example, you weren’t wearing a seatbelt), then it’s likely you can still make a compensation claim as long as someone else was partly to blame as well. However, the amount of compensation you receive will be reduced depending on how much the judge thinks your injury was your fault.
For example, if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt when the crash happened, and the judge thinks you would have received the same injuries even if you were wearing a seatbelt, you would receive your full compensation.
However, if your injuries would have been reduced if you had worn a seat belt, then your compensation will be reduced.
In Froom v Butcher (1976), for example, where the claimant was not wearing a seatbelt, the compensation was reduced by 15%.
Although whiplash injuries are usually associated with car crashes, they can also be caused in other ways, such as a heavy object falling on you, a slip, trip or fall, or colliding into something or someone.
If you suffer your whiplash injury at work and this was due to your employer’s negligence, a specialist personal injury solicitor can help you make a claim for compensation against them.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, every employer has a duty of care to take steps to minimise the risk of workers being injured. This includes giving you the training, equipment and supervision you need to do your job safely. They should also carry out regular risk assessments to make sure the right precautions are being taken.
You might be worried that your employer will punish you or go out of business if you make a claim against them. But you don’t need to worry – it’s illegal for you to be sacked or treated differently because of your claim. Also, your compensation will be paid by employers’ liability insurance, not by them personally.
For most cases, you have three years from when you first realised you were injured to make a whiplash claim. This is set out in the Limitation Act 1980. Most whiplash injuries appear quickly after the accident, so it’s best to contact someone as soon as possible while the details are still fresh in your mind.
You can’t go back and ask for more money once your case is closed, so your solicitor will usually wait until you have a better idea of how your injury is likely to affect you in the future before they start your claim. This is to make sure you receive all the compensation you need to cover the costs and effects of injury your injury moving forwards.
If you decide to go ahead with your claim, your injury solicitor will be able to do most of the hard work on your behalf. But if possible, it can be helpful to gather some notes and evidence at the scene of the accident and in the weeks following to help strengthen your case. For example:
If you feel that you’re ready to start a claim for your whiplash injury, you can get in touch with a trained legal adviser by calling free on 0800 234 6438 or submitting the online claim form.
Insurance companies will understandably try and get away with paying the minimum amount of compensation – that’s where you solicitor can help. Specialist personal injury solicitors have years of experience at putting together the strongest possible cases and successfully negotiating fair settlements for their clients. And if your solicitor doesn’t feel the settlement amount offered is sufficient, they’ll help you take your case to court to win you the full amount you deserve.
If you’re claiming compensation between £1000 and £25,000, your claim will be dealt with through a pre-action protocol such as the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents or the Pre-Action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims. More serious cases where the compensation amount is greater than £25,000 will be dealt with outside this low value procedure and your solicitor and the other side will then have to work to a strict timetable set by the court with the aim of completing your claim as soon as possible.
To put a stop to ‘fake’ whiplash claims, the government is planning reforms to limit the amount of compensation payable for whiplash claims and increasing the small claims limit. The changes to the law are expected in 2021 and will see:
Lucy is a NCTJ trained journalist who studied law at the University of Greenwich. She is a legal journalist and editor with more than 20 years experience writing about the law.
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