’The personal injury market has gone through a great deal of turmoil,’ says chief executive

A disagreement between claimant lawyers and the insurance sector around how to value and settle mixed-injury whiplash claims has caused a stalemate, leaving many personal injury claims unsettled and causing uncertainty for claimants.

Legal firm Minster Law told Insurance Times it was concerned that an ABI-led appeal to the Supreme Court over a January 2023 Court of Appeal (COA) decision on how compensate for these injuries would cause further delays in valuing and settling claims.

The firm was concerned that this appeal, if accepted by the Supreme Court, would add insult to injury for claimants who are already seeing the value of tariff injuries reduced in real terms following the reforms.

The Ministry of Justice’s Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal came online at the end of May 2021 following a government effort to mitigate the large quantity of fraudulent minor injury claims being made following road traffic accidents.

It intended to enable litigants in person (LiPs) to process their own whiplash injury claims following a road traffic accident, with claims awards based on a corresponding tariff table that aligns compensation with injury recovery times.

However, while whiplash soft tissue injuries are aligned to specific compensation values via a tariff table, mixed injury claims comprising whiplash and an additional injury are not. 

The COA ruled to agree with the principle that road traffic accident (RTA) victims should be compensated separately for whiplash and any other injuries, subject to making an adjustment to the overall compensation amount to reflect any overlap of amenity.

Shirley Woolham, chief executive of Minster Law, told Insurance Times that the claimant sector was calling for a more “streamlined and efficient system” for mixed injuries that was easy to navigate and provided timely updates on the progress of claims. 

It argued that this would alleviate the burden on those making the claims.

Analysis of cohort cases settled in the OIC portal has shown that around 40% of cases now contain both tariff and non-tariff injuries.

Added uncertainty

Minster Law said it believes the COA’s decision presented a reasonable approach to the growing problem of mixed injuries and the Supreme Court could solve matters by refusing to give permission for the appeal, instead relying on the COA’s detailed review.

Woolham added: “The failure of the Ministry of Justice in dealing with the issue of valuing multi-site injuries prior to reforms going live caused uncertainty for consumers and delay to many settlements.

“We had hoped that the COA decision would have brought that uncertainty to an end and allowed us to work collaboratively with insurers to identify how we can start delivering outcomes for the customer.”

The personal injury market has gone through a “great deal of turmoil” because of the OIC’s reforms and this latest disagreement has only added to the uncertainty and frustration felt by those affected, added Woolham.

She said it was important that the Supreme Court resolved this issue as soon as possible, to reduce the “ever-increasing backlog of civil claims and remove the legal limbo, which has left thousands of injured people unable to get on with their lives and receive settlement.”