Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained in a road traffic accident. It can, however, occur in any situation where there’s a sudden back and forth or sideways movement of the head, such as a slip, trip and fall or workplace accident.
The sudden jolt can cause an overstretching and damage the neck’s muscles, ligaments or nerves. Although often seen as a minor injury, whiplash can have long-lasting effects like chronic pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, dizziness and fatigue.
Severe whiplash can cause permanent damage and disability that requires regular treatment for pain and mobility issues. This might affect your ability to carry out daily chores or work activities and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other neurological problems.
If you suffered a whiplash injury due to someone else’s negligence, you might want to make a whiplash claim. An experienced solicitor can help you get the compensation you deserve for your pain, suffering and any financial losses you incurred because of your accident.
Can I make a whiplash claim?
A free consultation with a legal adviser is the best way to find out if you have a valid claim for whiplash compensation. But usually, you are eligible to claim if:
- Your accident happened in the last three years.
- Another party who owed you a duty of care acted negligently.
- Their negligence caused you to suffer a whiplash injury and any associated conditions.
Whiplash symptoms can sometimes take days or even weeks to develop. If they don’t appear on the day of your accident, the three-year countdown for making a claim will begin the day the doctor gives you a diagnosis.
The laws for claiming whiplash compensation changed on 31st May 2021. According to the new regulations, the small claims limit following a road traffic accident has been raised from £1,000 to £5,000. The new system aims to reduce the number of fraudulent claims and the related high legal costs.
The new changes also mean that:
- The defendant will no longer contribute towards your legal fees for claims under £5,000.
- The compensation you can receive is based on how long it takes to recover from your injury.
- The new compensation awards are fixed between £240 and £4,345 and divided into whiplash with psychological injury and without psychological trauma.
- Other minor road traffic injuries like simple fractures now fall into the small claims category.
- You can now make small claims related to personal injuries online without the help of a solicitor.
- It will be down to you to gather and submit relevant evidence and negotiate your compensation with the defendant’s insurer.
These changes apply only to road traffic accidents and do not affect vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. The small claims limit remains £1,000 total damages or less for whiplash injuries following a slip, trip and fall, accident at work or medical negligence cases.
It is recommended you always ask for the advice of an experienced solicitor before deciding to make an online claim yourself. The initial consultation is free, and you might find out that your claim is worth much more than you estimated.
What is whiplash?
According to the new Civil Liability Act 2018, whiplash defines any soft tissue injury in the neck, back or shoulder. This includes sprains, strains, tears or lesser damage to muscles, tendons and ligaments in this area of the body.
A soft tissue injury in the back, neck or shoulders is not classified as whiplash if it is a part of or connected to another injury.
The mechanism leading to a whiplash injury is known as cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD). It is commonly associated with road accidents, but it can be sustained in many other ways, including sports accidents, falls, bungee jumping or physical assaults.
Consequently, the laws for whiplash injury claims changed in an effort to reduce motor insurance premiums for drivers and fraudulent claims.
While many cases involve mild pain and soreness that resolve within a few weeks, whiplash can sometimes lead to permanent disability. You may be more likely to develop chronic pain and mobility issues if your symptoms develop promptly and include:
- Severe neck pain
- Limited range of motion
- Pain spreading to the arms
Whiplash diagnosis takes into account the patient’s history, examination of the neck and head, X-rays to rule out any fractures and medical imaging to see if there are any other related issues. During a physical exam, your doctor will ask you to perform various tasks to check:
- The range of motion in your neck and shoulders
- Tenderness in your neck, back or shoulders
- What degree of movement causes or increases pain
- Reflexes, sensation and strength in your limbs
According to the Québec Task Force (QTF) classification system for spinal injuries, whiplash-associated disorders are divided into five grades:
- Grade 0: no pain, stiffness, or any other physical signs
- Grade 1: neck pain, stiffness or tenderness with no physical signs noted by a physician
- Grade 2: patient complaints plus a decreased range of motion noted by the physician
- Grade 3: neck complaints accompanied by neurological signs such as decreased reflexes and sensory deficits
- Grade 4: neck complaints accompanied by a fracture, dislocation or spinal cord injury
If you suffered a whiplash injury without being at fault, you might be entitled to make a whiplash claim. The compensation you could receive depends on the long-time effects the trauma might have on your health. For example, a grade 4 whiplash injury will be worth more than a grade 1 injury.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
If you were involved in an accident that caused a sudden jolt to the neck, you might have developed a whiplash injury. Whiplash affects the soft tissue in your neck, like muscles, tendons or nerves.
The signs and symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on the circumstances of the injury and any risk factors of every individual, like age, smoking or body mass index.
The first symptoms of whiplash might appear within a few days or even longer and include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Swelling and inflammation
- Pain in the shoulders, arms or the upper or lower back
- Dizziness and nausea
- Pain when walking
- Tenderness or muscle spasms in the neck
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Decreased range of motion
In severe cases, you might also experience:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Blurred vision
- Memory problems and difficulty concentrating
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Trouble sleeping
- Depression and mood swings
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Severe pain that doesn’t resolve with medication
- Problems sitting up or walking
Most whiplash injuries are relatively minor and may even heal on their own. The symptoms of a mild injury can last for several weeks, but, occasionally, they can have long-lasting or permanent effects. Women are more susceptible to this kind of trauma due to typically having weaker neck muscles than men.
If whiplash symptoms persist for more than six to twelve months, they are labelled as Whiplash syndrome. Symptoms include headache, stiffness, chronic pain, spinal misalignment, weakness and tingling in the arms or back conditions.
Without adequate care, even a minor injury can lead to severe complications. If you were involved in an accident or are experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should seek immediate medical assistance.
A proper diagnosis and treatment may prevent your injury from getting worse or developing any long-lasting symptoms. A medical record relating to your injury will also serve as essential evidence if you decide to make a whiplash claim.
How is a whiplash injury treated?
If you are diagnosed with whiplash based on a physical exam, X-ray, CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the treatment will depend on the severity of your injury. The treatment plan aims to control pain, restore your normal range of motion and help you return to your normal activities.
The treatment for pain management includes:
- Rest for a day or two could help, but prolonged rest might delay recovery.
- Apply heat or cold to the neck injury for 15 minutes every few hours.
- Over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or paracetamol for mild to moderate pain.
- Prescription medication like antidepressants for more severe nerve pain.
- Muscle relaxants to loosen tight muscles and reduce muscle spasms.
- Injections of lidocaine into painful muscle areas.
Your doctor might also prescribe a series of exercises you can do at home to restore the range of motion in your neck. It might be recommended to take a warm shower or apply moist heat to the painful area before exercising.
These might include stretching and movement exercises like neck rotations, rolling your shoulders, tilting your head side to side or bending the neck towards your chest.
For ongoing whiplash pain and mobility issues, you might need physical therapy. Your physical therapist will help strengthen your muscles, improve posture and restore normal movement. They might also give you a personalised routine that you can practice at home.
There are also some alternative therapies for whiplash, but research regarding their benefits is limited:
- Acupuncture might offer some neck pain relief
- Neck massages for short-term pain relief
- Chiropractic care through spinal manipulation techniques
- Electrical nerve stimulation
Although you cannot prevent an accident from happening, there are some things you can do to avoid a severe whiplash injury:
- Correctly use the head restraints while driving.
- Practice regular exercises to keep the neck muscles strong.
- Always wear your seatbelt and don’t sit too close to the steering wheel.
- If you sit or stand in the same position all day, take regular breaks to stretch and relax your neck muscles.
The consequences of whiplash range from minor symptoms that go away on their own to severe disability, and it seems like around 50% of victims will have some remaining symptoms many years after the injury.
What is the process for making whiplash claims?
With the UK often being called the Whiplash Capital of Europe, claiming whiplash compensation became somehow stigmatised. Some people chose not to claim due to feeling guilty or not knowing the official whiplash claiming procedure.
Whiplash is, nonetheless, a genuine and potentially severe injury for which you are entitled to claim compensation if you got hurt due to someone else’s negligence.
You need to follow just a few simple steps to claim for whiplash:
- Exchange contact details with all the parties involved in the accident. If you were involved in a road traffic accident, you should get the driver’s insurance details and number plate.
- If you were the victim of a hit and run accident or the other party refuses to share their insurance details, report the accident to the police. Whiplash claims for hit and run accidents are made through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), which require the accident gets reported to the police.
- Gather evidence at the accident scene such as photos of the accident scene, pictures of your injuries, contact details for any witnesses, CCTV or dashcam footage.
- Contact your insurance company if you were the driver involved in a road traffic accident. Even if you are not responsible for the collision, you have a duty to report the accident and any injuries you or your passengers suffered within 24 hours.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. It is strongly advised you see your GP or go to the hospital after any kind of accident or if you develop any of the symptoms of whiplash.
- The symptoms can take a few days or even more to display, so it’s important to monitor your health and get appropriate medical care. The medical record of your injury is an essential piece of evidence, without which you will not be able to make a successful claim.
- Consult a legal adviser. An initial free consultation with a legal adviser will allow you to explain to them the details of your accident and the injuries you sustained, finding out if you might have a valid compensation claim.
Under the new laws for whiplash claims, if you suffered a whiplash injury in a road traffic accident, you can also make an online request by yourself for compensation claims under £5,000 by providing medical records and all other relevant proof. It will be up to you to negotiate a settlement with the defendant’s insurer.
The new laws don’t affect vulnerable road users or whiplash claims for any accident other than road traffic accidents.
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410 or fill in our online claim form to receive a call back. They can let you know if you have a valid whiplash claim and if it’s to your advantage to make an online claim.
What type of accidents can result in whiplash injury claims?
Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck, back or shoulders. It is often associated with road traffic accidents, but you can sustain a whiplash injury in any other circumstance involving a forceful and sudden movement of the neck.
Examples of accidents that might cause whiplash include:
- Rear-end crashes are the type of accident where a whiplash injury is more likely to occur. A rear-end collision happens when a vehicle collides with the one in front of it. Common factors are driver distraction, tailgating, sudden stops or poor road conditions.
- The occupants of the rear-ended vehicle will have their heads thrown backwards then quickly thrown forwards, which may cause soft tissue damage to the neck.
- Head-on crashes generally occur at higher speeds than rear-end collisions and often result in more severe whiplash injuries.
- In a head-on impact, the head is first thrown forwards and then backwards. Depending on the force of the collision, you could suffer anything from whiplash to spinal cord damage.
- Single-vehicle crashes also have the potential to cause whiplash injuries. They usually have the same impact on the vehicle occupants as a head-on crash.
- Single-vehicle crashes can also involve other road users like pedestrians, who can also suffer a whiplash injury, depending on the force and angle of collision.
- Motorcycle accidents are a common cause of whiplash injury due to the limited protection bikers have and the lack of head restraints.
- Slips, trips and falls. When you fall after a slip or trip, the impact with the ground or another object can cause a whiplash injury to the muscles, tendons or ligaments in your neck. The movement of the head is similar to that caused by a car accident and can have the same consequences.
- Sports injuries. The acceleration and deceleration forces associated with whiplash can also be experienced in many sports such as football, boxing, hockey or other contact sports. Sports such as skiing, horse riding, bicycle riding or motorcycling can also lead to falls that might cause whiplash.
- Physical abuse or assaults, if you are being punched, shaken violently or suffer a blow to the head with a heavy object.
Other scenarios might also cause you to suffer a whiplash injury. Even low-speed collisions that could happen in a car park accident can lead to whiplash. You are entitled to claim compensation both as the driver or a passenger in a road traffic accident.
If your whiplash injury was due to another party’s negligence, you might be entitled to make a whiplash claim. The compensation you could receive will depend on the time it might take for you to recover.
You should keep in mind that you can still make a whiplash injury claim even if you were partially to blame for your injury. In this case, your compensation award will be reduced due to contributory negligence.
According to the new Civil Liabilities Act 2018, the fixed amounts for whiplash compensation rarely exceed £5,000. If your injury was caused by a road traffic accident, it might be in your interest to make an online compensation claim.
The defendant is no longer required to pay your legal fees for claims under £5,000, and hiring a professional solicitor might cost you more than your claim is worth.
Before taking any decision, it is recommended you get legal advice. For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a claim and answer any questions you may have.
How much compensation can you claim for whiplash?
Starting on 31st May 2021, as part of the Civil Liabilities Act 2018, the compensation amounts awarded for whiplash injuries are based on how long it might take to heal. Furthermore, compensation will be awarded based on two categories, namely with or without additional psychological trauma.
The maximum amount you can claim for a whiplash injury with psychological distress is fixed at £4,345. You could claim an additional 20% in exceptional situations, such as if the whiplash was particularly severe or your circumstances increased the pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the whiplash injury.
For whiplash claims related to a road traffic accident, the defendant will no longer have to contribute towards the legal fees you incurred in the claiming process. Therefore, it is likely that most whiplash claims related to road accidents will be made directly by the victim, using an online form.
You will need a medical report attesting to your whiplash injury to be able to claim compensation for:
- Costs of repairing or replacing any destroyed property, such as your vehicle.
- Travel expenses related to the accident.
- Loss of income, including future lost wages, if you can’t return to work for a while.
- Costs of care and household assistance.
- Medical expenses, including treatment and prescription costs.
- Costs of physical therapy and psychological counselling.
In every personal injury claim, other than the financial losses you incurred because of an accident, you can also claim for general damages like:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Psychological distress
- Loss of a unique career
- Decreased quality of life
- Loss of or limitation to pursuing a hobby
The £5,000 small claims limit for whiplash in road traffic accidents refers to the compensation awarded for general damages.
Based on how long your whiplash injury lasts, you could receive the following compensation amounts:
- £240 for an injury lasting less than three months (£260 with psychological trauma).
- £495 for recovery within three to six months (£520 with psychological trauma).
- £840 for recovery within six to nine months (£895 with psychological trauma).
- £1,320 if the recovery takes more than nine months but under 12 months (£1,390 with psychological trauma).
- £2,040 if recovery takes more than 12 months but no more than 15 months (£2,125 with psychological trauma).
- £3,005 for a recovery period taking between 15 to 18 months (£3,100 with psychological trauma).
- £4,251 for an injury that lasts between 18 to 24 months (£4,345 with psychological trauma).
If you also suffered a non-whiplash injury after an accident, the compensation award will be negotiated separately, based on severity and how it affected your life.
What evidence will I need to claim whiplash compensation?
If you decide to make a whiplash claim, you will need relevant evidence attesting to your injuries and any related losses you suffered.
Even if you suffered whiplash after a road accident and you decide to make a claim yourself through an online portal, you will need proof in the form of:
- A medical record regarding the nature of your injury, any treatments you required and your recovery prospects.
- Photographs of the accident scene and what caused your injury. Depending on the kind of accident you were involved in, this could be:
- Copies of any dashcam or CCTV footage that might have recorded the event leading to your whiplash injury.
- Written notes of how the accident occurred, the time, date and location of the event and any other relevant details you might remember.
- Contact details of anybody involved in the accident, together with insurance details and plate numbers of any other drivers if you suffered a road traffic accident.
- Police reports, if you were involved in a hit and run, an accident with an uninsured driver or were the victim of a physical assault.
- Contact details of anyone who might have witnessed the accident and might be willing to testify on your behalf.
- A copy of the accident report book if you suffered an injury at work or in a privately owned business such as a shop, restaurant or supermarket.
- Travel receipts for taxis, trains or buses, attesting to your travel expenses.
- Proof of any medical expenses you incurred such as medication, treatments or physical therapy.
- Evidence of any other financial losses you incurred, such as lost wages or costs of care.
The more evidence you have or manage to gather, the easier it will be to make a whiplash claim and receive the compensation you deserve. If you hire a professional solicitor to help you, they will also assist you with collecting relevant proof to support your case.
They can also arrange for a free visit with a licensed physician to get a comprehensive diagnosis of your injury and how long it might take to recover.
To start your claim, speak to a trained legal adviser by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation.
How long does a whiplash claim take?
If you suffered a whiplash injury, you might be worried about the amount of time and effort you might invest into making a whiplash claim. If the circumstances allow it, hiring a personal injury solicitor can spare you a lot of trouble, and you will be able to focus on your recovery.
The length of time from when you start your claim until you receive compensation can vary significantly, depending on several factors like:
- The type and severity of your injury
- The circumstances of your accident
- Any long-time effects of your injury
- The time you need to gather the required evidence
- Whether the defendant accepts liability
- Whether you know the defendant’s identity
For example, in complex cases, assessing the full extent of your injuries and their long-term consequences might take anywhere from a few months to several years. This is not usually the case for whiplash injuries.
If the defendant admits liability and you suffered a minor whiplash injury, the claim will usually settle within two to three months. If the other side denies liability, you will need to gather as much evidence as possible to prove they acted negligently.
Even if the other party admits liability, they might not agree with your settlement offer. In both cases, you will have to present the evidence in court and have a judge decide liability and a suitable compensation amount.
If you have to defend your claim in court, you might have to wait between 6 to 9 months before even receiving a court date, meaning your claim will take significantly longer to settle.
Aside from being faster, an out of court settlement involves fewer expenses for both parties, it’s less stressful, and you are guaranteed to receive compensation.
If you suffered a whiplash injury in a road traffic accident, an accident at work or in a public place and your claim is worth less than £25,000, it could be processed through the Pre-Action Protocol. This means you can make your claim through the online claims portal.
The claims portal speeds up personal injury claims by giving the defendant no more than 35 days to consider the presented evidence and make a settlement proposal. It should take around four to nine months to settle a claim through the claims portal.
Whiplash claims after a hit and run involve much more work for the police, your solicitor and the MIB and could easily take a lot longer than 12 months to settle. The same is valid if you were the victim of an unidentified attacker and you have to claim whiplash compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
Is there a time limit to claim for whiplash?
The time limit for making a whiplash claim is usually three years from the day of your accident. In case of delayed whiplash, the symptoms might become apparent after a few days or even weeks after having an accident. In this case, the three-year countdown will begin on the day you learned of your injury.
The last day you can start legal proceedings is known as the claim limitation date. You should always contact a solicitor as soon as possible after your injury, seeing as gathering evidence and preparing the case can take a long time.
There are several exceptions to the three-year limitation date:
- If you are claiming on behalf of a child, there is no limitation date to start a whiplash compensation claim. The there-year countdown will begin as soon as they turn 18. Afterwards, they can make their own claim up until their 21st birthday.
- There is no time limit to claim compensation on behalf of someone with diminished mental capacity. If they regain mental capacity, the victim will have three years to start a whiplash claim.
- If you suffered a whiplash injury abroad, you can still claim compensation from the responsible party, but the claim limitation date might be significantly shorter than three years, depending on the foreign country’s regulations.
- For whiplash injuries related to violent attacks, you have up to two years to make a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
- Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, if your injury was caused by a faulty product, you can make a whiplash claim within ten years from the product’s launch date.
You can find out what limitation date might apply to your particular situation by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser.
Can a whiplash claim be made on behalf of a child?
If your child suffered a whiplash injury due to another party’s negligence, you are entitled to make a whiplash injury claim on their behalf at any point before they turn 18.
In child injury claims, either one of the parents, a legal guardian or a close family member can act as a litigation friend and claim compensation on their behalf.
To become a litigation friend for your child, you will have to fill in and serve a certificate of suitability, stating that you have no conflict of interest with the child and can make decisions regarding the claim in a fair and competent way.
You might not be able to act as a litigation friend on behalf of your child if they suffered a whiplash injury as a car passenger while you were driving, seeing as it might give rise to a conflict of interest.
If a child suffers a whiplash injury as a passenger in a car or while riding the bus, they are entitled to receive compensation regardless of liability disputes.
The small claims general damages limit remains £1,000 for road traffic accident injuries involving children. If their compensation is worth more than £1,000, the liable party will have to cover all legal costs incurred during the claiming process.
Just like in any other personal injury claim, a child whiplash claim can cover:
- General damages awarded for their pain, suffering and loss of amenity.
- Special damages for medical expenses, home tutors, physical therapy and any other financial costs you incurred due to your child’s accident.
If you manage to reach an out of court settlement, you will need to go to an approval hearing, possibly together with the child, so that a judge makes sure that the compensation amount is suitable.
Although you can claim for whiplash on behalf of your child, you do not have access to the compensation awarded. The money will be transferred into a court bank account and gain interest until the child turns 18. The funds will then be released to them by cheque.
You can petition the court to release some of the money early, but this is usually allowed only if you can’t otherwise cover medical or education costs for the child.
Can a whiplash case be made on a no win no fee basis?
If the accident that caused your whiplash injury was due to another party’s negligence, you might qualify for a no win no fee claim.
Before taking on your case, a solicitor will consider the circumstances in which you got injured and any available evidence. If they decide you have a fair chance of success, you will be offered a conditional fee agreement.
You could still be eligible to make a no win no fee whiplash claim even after the Civil Liabilities Act 2018 changes that came into effect on 31st May 2021. The only difference is that whiplash claims for road traffic accidents under £5,000 now fall into the small claims category.
Consequently, the defendant will no longer contribute to your legal costs if you win the case, and they will be deducted from your compensation.
Other than that, a no win no fee agreement remains unchanged. If you have a valid claim, you can ask for compensation with the help of a professional solicitor without having to worry about any upfront costs or hidden charges.
If you end up losing the claim, the After the Event insurance will provide coverage for all legal costs, and you won’t have to pay a single penny.
After you receive compensation, your solicitor will deduct a success fee from your award. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation total and is meant to cover their legal services.
If you feel you may have a valid whiplash claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser. They will let you know if you qualify for a no win no fee claim and answer any questions you might have.
Can I claim for a whiplash accident that happened abroad?
If you or a loved one suffered a whiplash injury abroad without being at fault, you could still claim compensation even once you are back in the UK.
If you have evidence of your whiplash injury, you can make a claim for road accidents, slips, trips and falls, sports injuries, accidents while working abroad, and many other accidents in which you might have suffered whiplash.
To make the claiming process easier, aside from a medical record attesting to your whiplash injury, you should have as much evidence of where and how your injury occurred. This includes photographs of the accident scene, contact details of any witnesses, official records of the accident and any receipts for expenses.
The time limit to make a whiplash claim is usually three years in the UK, but this may vary substantially among different countries. If you suffered an injury abroad, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible, as the claim limitation date could be as short as six months in some countries.