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Making a whiplash claim: how much could I receive?

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If you end up in a car accident, one of the most common injuries you can suffer is whiplash, which is caused by the sudden movement of your head and neck. 

If you do suffer whiplash following an accident, you can make a personal injury claim and seek compensation. In fact, according to the Association of British Insurers, more than 1,500 whiplash claims are made in the UK every day. 

Following a whiplash claim, you may find that your car insurance quotes go up. However, the same would be true if you had an accident and didn’t make a claim. 

Read our comprehensive guide below to find out how to make a whiplash claim, how much compensation you could receive and the times when your claim might be rejected.

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What is whiplash?

The NHS defines whiplash as ‘a neck injury caused by sudden movement of the head’. If you suffer a whiplash-related injury, common symptoms include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty moving your head
  • Pain and muscle spasms in your shoulders and arms

These symptoms might not appear immediately after the inciting accident. It can take a few hours before you start to feel any of the above.

If you do suffer whiplash, you should take basic painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to deal with the discomfort and try to continue with your everyday activities. It can take up to three months to fully recover from a whiplash injury. 

However, you should contact your GP or call 111 if you experience the following:

  • You’re in severe pain despite taking painkillers
  • You experience pins and needles or tingling on one or both sides of your body
  • You struggle to walk or sit upright
  • You feel a sudden ‘electric shock’ in your neck, back, arms or legs
  • Your arms or legs feel weak
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New whiplash claim rules as of May 2021

In May 2021, reforms were introduced to simplify the whiplash claims process, including the following:

 

  • The launch of a new Official Injury Claim (OIC) online portal for road traffic accident claims under £5,000, designed to reduce the need for expensive legal advice and protected court cases
  • The banning of the settlement of whiplash claims without medical evidence, to cut down on fraudulent claims
  • The introduction of a fixed tariff system for whiplash compensation

 

These reforms were estimated to reduce car insurance costs by £35 a year (a benefit that’s been lost due to skyrocketing premiums). 

 

If you want to make a whiplash claim using the OIC online portal, you must meet the following conditions:

 

  • Be over the age of 18
  • Have had an accident in England or Wales
  • Have had the accident on or after 31 May 2021
  • Have been inside the vehicle (as a driver or passenger)
  • Believe the accident wasn’t your fault
  • Have a minor injury with a value less than £5,000

How to make a whiplash claim

While you can make a claim using your own legal representation, typically through a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement, submitting a claim through the OIC online portal may save you money. 

Your car insurance policy may also include legal assistance, such as a free helpline or more extensive cover through motor legal protection. If you want to feel more comfortable with a legal representative or just want some advice, make sure to check your policy first.

The OIC online portal was designed to be used without for legal assistance. In fact, one of the main reasons for its creation was to cut down on unnecessary legal costs. However, only 10 per cent of claims have been made by unrepresented claimants since the portal’s inception. 

How to use the OIC online portal

You’ll only be able to make a whiplash claim using the OIC online portal if you’re in a non-fault accident. This is an incident where you weren’t responsible for any damage or injury caused.

When claiming the OIC online portal, you need to follow these five steps:

  1. Submit your claim

This will involve providing details of the following:

  • The people involved (including your National Insurance number and employment status)
  • The accident (including where and when it happened)
  • The injuries you suffered as a result of the accident (including medical treatment and time away from work)
  • The vehicles involved
  • The person you think was responsible for the incident
  • Other losses you may have suffered (including repairs to your vehicle)
  • Photo or dashcam evidence
  • Witnesses to the accident
  • Police involvement

This process should only take 20 to 30 minutes. 

  1. Wait for the results of the investigation

After you’ve provided all the necessary information, you’ll be asked to sign a Statement of Truth confirming everything you’ve said is true and accurate. 

The OIC will then approach the insurance company of the person you believe to be at fault. The provider will investigate the claim and let you know who it believes is at fault within 30 business days of the claim being submitted: 

  • If the other driver admits it was their fault, you’ll be able to progress with seeking compensation
  • If the driver admits they were partially at fault, you’ll need to negotiate what percentage of fault each of you is responsible for
  • If the driver denies they were at fault, you’ll either have to challenge this decision through the OIC portal or pursue the matter through a small claims court
  1. Undergo a medical check

If the other driver admits liability, you’ll then need to undergo a medical check to assess the extent of your injuries. The OIC portal will help you find a medical report provider, including where you’d like the examination to take place. 

This report will detail the nature of your injuries and your expected recovery time. The provider itself will upload the report to the OIC system for you to review. 

  1. Receive an offer

Your medical report will then be used to calculate how much compensation you receive for your whiplash claims. The bands are based on the duration of your injury, with two tiers of payout depending on whether or not you also suffered a minor psychological injury.

The OIC service isn’t limited to whiplash claims but also includes other minor injuries suffered following a road traffic accident as long as the total value is less than £5,000. This includes broken fingers and soft tissue injuries. You won’t need to make individual claims for separate injuries incurred during the same accident. 

If you make a claim that includes whiplash and other injuries, the compensation you receive for the whiplash will be based on the whiplash tariff, while any other injuries will need to be valued separately. 

  1. Close the claims process

Once you’ve received the offer, you can either accept it, wait out the recovery time suggested by your medical report or dispute it:

  • If you accept the offer, the claims process will be closed
  • If you wait out your recovery time, you can see whether the initial medical assessment was correct and the offer based on that assessment is appropriate. If you feel it isn’t, you can dispute the offer
  • If you dispute the offer, you can see if the insurer will increase its offer or suggest an offer of your own. If an agreement can’t be reached, you may choose to go to court

How long will it take? 

As of December 2023, it takes an average of 84 days for a claimant using the OIC service to receive an offer and advise the insurer of their decision. 

How long your claim takes will depend on whether or not liability is disputed, the complexity of your injuries and how prompt you are at providing the relevant information.

Can a passenger make a whiplash claim?

You can still make a whiplash claim if you were only a passenger during the accident. 

The options available to you are the same as those available to the driver of the car. You can use the following:

  • OIC service
  • Legal representation on a no-win, no-fee basis
  • Legal services provided by your car insurance company

How much compensation could I get for a whiplash claim?

How much compensation you can receive from your whiplash claim will depend on the duration of your injury and whether you suffered any psychological effects, such as shock or travel anxiety. 

Compensation is based on the following tariff:

Duration of your injury Compensation (without minor psychological injury) Compensation (with 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

For severe whiplash injuries, you can potentially receive a 20 per cent increase to the compensation dictated by your medical report.

Can I claim for any other losses?

While you can only use the OIC service for injury claims valued at less than £5,000, your total compensation can rise to £10,000 to cover all losses related to the accident. This includes things like travel costs for medical appointments, the cost of any early medical treatment and loss of earnings due to time off work related to the accident.

Will a claim for whiplash affect insurance premiums?

Unfortunately, even if you make a whiplash claim for a non-fault accident, your car insurance premium will likely increase the next time you renew your policy.

However, this would probably happen as a result of the accident anyway, regardless of whether you make a whiplash claim. This is because you must report all motor accidents to your insurer, even if you don’t make a claim. 

As for your no-claims bonus, if you’re claiming for a non-fault accident, it won’t be affected. 

Can an insurance provider refuse a whiplash claim?

If the other driver’s insurance company decides that its customer isn’t responsible for the accident or that you haven’t provided enough evidence, your whiplash claim could be refused. In that event, you can dispute this decision through the OIC service or a small claims court. 

Another reason your whiplash claim could be refused is if you fail to claim within three years of your accident.

FAQs about making a whiplash claim

When driving, there are a number of steps you can take to try and avoid, or at least minimise the effects of, whiplash:

  • Adjust your head restraint before you start driving so it’s properly positioned
  • Make sure your steering wheel is level with your chest, not your face
  • Always sit upright and, of course, wear your seat belt
  • Don’t drive too close to the car in front to minimise the risk of a collision
  • Lean your head back on the head restraint and look forwards if you think you’re about to be in a collision
  • Keep healthy and active, as this can help your recovery in the event of whiplash

If you’re in an accident and you’re confident it wasn’t your fault, it may be worth pursuing a whiplash claim. This is especially true if you use the OIC online service, as you won’t need to pay for legal representation.

Typically, you can use painkillers to reduce the discomfort you feel following a whiplash injury. You’re also recommended to keep doing everyday activities, even if it hurts a little. 

If your symptoms persist, your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist or a pain specialist to help with your recovery. If you’ve suffered from shock or anxiety following the accident, you could also seek psychological support. 

Connor Campbell

Finance Writer

Connor Campbell is an experienced personal and business finance writer who has been producing online content for almost a decade. 

Connor is the personal finance expert for Independent Advisor, guiding readers through everything they need to know about car insurance and home insurance. From how much it costs to the best insurance providers in the UK, he’s here to help you find the right policy for your needs. 

In his capacity as writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, Connor explored a number of topics close to his heart, such as the impact of our increasingly cashless society, and the hardships and heroics of British entrepreneurs. His commentary was featured in sites such as The Mirror, the Daily Express and Business Insider

At financial trading firm Spreadex, meanwhile, his market commentary was featured in outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, Reuters and the Evening Standard

Connor is a voracious reader with an MA in English, and is dedicated to making life’s financial decisions a little bit easier by doing away with jargon and needless complexity.

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Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.