This site uses cookies.

Cyclists Accident Claims Fall Short in the Latest Whiplash Reform

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

Over the last several years, the number of road users in the UK has continually climbed. In addition to motorists, cyclists have also increased, giving way to a rise in road traffic accidents throughout the area. A report released by the Department for Transport highlighted the shift in road traffic accidents for the worse, revealing a five per cent increase in the number of cyclists killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roadways. Throughout 2016, 102 cyclists died while an additional 3,397 experienced a serious injury; a total of more than 18,000 cycling accidents were reported for the period, many of which were due to the negligence of another road user.

The state of serious injury claims on UK roadways has been a topic of debate for many years, but some discussion has nodded in the direction of insurance companies and government instead of vulnerable road users like cyclists. In a recent announcement, the Ministry of Justice shared that the long-awaited whiplash reform programme would be delayed until 2020, nearly two years past its original implementation deadline. The whiplash reform has come under a great deal of scrutiny since its proposal in 2017, and some still fear it is potentially damaging to vulnerable road users who experience an accident and resulting injuries. Although the delay gives some breathing room for cyclists, without a change in the programme, those who cycle on UK roads have the potential to suffer greatly under the reform.

Understanding the Reform

The whiplash reform programme is intended to bring down the number of fraudulent whiplash claims after a road traffic accident by implementing some restrictions on who is able to make a compensation claim and for what damages. Under the reform, the most significant change is the increase of the small claims court limit for all personal injury claims, up from £1,000 to £5,000. This increase is meant to keep more personal injury claims out of court where legal representation is available and affordable, and it puts limits on what accident victims can include in calculating their total claim.

With a small claims court limit increase, many victims may see an expedited process from start to finish. However, the fast-track of claims processing also means accident victims potentially lose out on the full amount of compensation they deserve to cover injuries, loss of wages, legal costs, and pain and suffering. For cyclists, the reach of the new reform programme is substantial, as many of them cannot meet the burden of valuation for an accident claim in small claims court.

Why Cyclists Lose Out

A team of cycle claims specialists in the UK explains the impact on vulnerable road users as a result of the updated whiplash reform, stating nearly 70% of cyclists who claim for compensation do not meet the new limit. Being forced to use small claims court means they cannot recoup legal costs associated with bringing a claim against an insurer or a motorist. Many may feel little choice but to pursue a claim without legal representation, or they will pay out of pocket to cover these expenses. This reality leaves cyclists with minimal compensation after all is said and done.

In addition to shifting how accident claims are processed through small claims court, vulnerable road users like cyclists often do not experience whiplash as a part of their injuries. Instead, legal specialists explain that the majority of cycling accident injuries involve broken bones, including the wrists, ankles, or collarbones. Cyclists involved in a road traffic accident may also have more serious injuries because they do not have the protection of a vehicle surrounding them while biking. The combination of these issues makes the whiplash reform programme unfair to cyclists and their families.

Insurance Company Wins

The reason behind the whiplash reform programme and changes to small claims court limits falls firmly on the belief that creating a more difficult environment to file compensation claims will reduce the number of frivolous whiplash claims. Insurance companies stand to win the most under the reform, as they may experience fewer claims and therefore, may have less to pay for settlements to accident victims. Many insurers have stated the reform is a benefit to road users as the reduction in settlement costs is passed down in the form of lower premium expenses for individual road users. The truth is that motorists are likely not to see any reduction in cost when the reform goes into effect.

Cyclists and other vulnerable road users like pedestrians pay no insurance premiums, and cases of whiplash after an accident are rare. The whiplash reform makes no mention of these road users, nor does it take into account these extreme differences between cyclists and motorists. The hope, however, is that the delay of implementation of the reform gives advocates for cyclists an opportunity to speak out against this unfair shift in personal injury compensation.