We’ve all seen the news stories and online articles about the so-called ‘crash for cash’ frauds being perpetrated on honest drivers throughout the country. With so many dodgy compensation claims being filed the government recently took steps to cut the high numbers of such fraudulent road accident claims.

From May 2021 how you claim for things such as whiplash injuries after a road accident have changed radically. While the changes haven’t been well publicised it’s worth knowing all you can about them. Read our Taxi Insurer guide to the new laws and get informed.

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, and traffic volumes on the rise, it’s vital you keep your drivers up to date on any such changes. This quick and easy guide looks at what the changes are, why they’ve been introduced and what your drivers can do to avoid a whiplash injury – it’s always worth a reminder!

As well as keeping your drivers briefed on such matters, having the right insurance for a taxi fleet in place is a must if you want to keep your business on track and out of trouble.

 

What is whiplash?

Contrary to what some people believe, whiplash is far from a minor injury. It’s a soft tissue injury (like a sprain, strain, tear, or rupture) to the muscles, tendons or ligaments of the neck, back or shoulder.

It can be extremely painful and have a big impact on mobility. Indeed, the NHS lists some common symptoms to look out for which include:

  • Swelling;
  • Neck pain;
  • Neck stiffness and difficulty moving your head;
  • Headaches and dizziness;
  • Pain and muscle spasms in the shoulders and arms.

It can take several hours for such symptoms to develop after the accident, in fact you might think you haven’t hurt yourself at all! However, while it can take two to three months to get better it’s very uncomfortable and sometimes takes even longer to improve.

At the very least it could mean you have to take time off work or be unable to drive while you recover. In more severe cases of whiplash, damage can be permanent and have long lasting effects on a person’s life.

If you’re an older person or someone already experiencing neck conditions such as arthritis then you could be more prone to whiplash injuries. As you age muscles and ligaments lose flexibility and strength and become more vulnerable to damage.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers have said whiplash is the most common injury in car accidents, with half of all car crashes in England leading to whiplash.

Whiplash is caused by a sudden jolt or stretching of the neck that damages the ligaments or other tissues.

It's a common injury for drivers or passengers involved in a rear-end shunt on the road. And it doesn't take much force; many whiplash injuries occur in low speed collisions at between 5 and 10mph.

The severity of a whiplash injury depends on how well you're wearing your seatbelt and if your headrests are correctly adjusted.

According to the Association of British Insurers, there are now over 1,500 whiplash injury compensation claims filed every day in the UK. Over the course of a year that's nearly 550,000 – and most of them are caused in road traffic accidents.

But it’s not just the injuries and stress that have an impact on drivers. Whiplash claims are believed to cost insurers more than £2 billion a year – and add £90 to the average driver’s annual insurance premium.

Two people exchanging details after a light car crash

What are the changes to whiplash injury claims?

In brief, the new laws around whiplash injury claims are contained in the Civil Liability Act 2018. The reforms will:

  1. Provide a new fixed tariff of compensation for some aspects of whiplash injuries, depending on how long the injury has affected the person. It provides whiplash sufferers with a clear guide to how much compensation would be payable for the injury. It’ll help control legal costs and ensure any compensation is proportionate to the injury suffered.
  2. Introduce a new online portal system which will be simple and easy to use. It’s designed to deal with any road traffic-related personal injury claim valued at under £5,000. There will be user-guides to explain the process every step of the way and a helpline for if you get stuck. It removes the necessity for claimants to use potentially expensive lawyers to deal with their claim. And in most cases, it should remove the need for stressful court appearances.
  3. Simplify the claims system so legal advice is only claimable for road traffic personal injury claims over £5,000.
  4. Introduce a ban on seeking or offering to settle whiplash claims without first obtaining medical evidence of the injury. This practice had been blamed for leading to a rise in fraudulent or embellished claims.

If you want to read the new laws in all their legal detail then head over to the government’s legislation site.

 

Why have the changes been introduced?

Every year there are fewer and fewer crashes on UK roads, indeed we have some of the safest roads in Europe. According to the government, despite this road traffic accident claims are now more than 40% higher than in 2006.

It’s believed this has been partly fuelled by an increase in exaggerated and often disproportionate claims. Which in turn has driven up the costs of insurance cover for ordinary law-abiding drivers.

The government, insurers and drivers have had enough and the changes are a way of tackling this problem.

 

Details on the new Whiplash Tariffs

The new Whiplash Tariffs let everyone know precisely how much compensation is payable when someone suffers a whiplash injury following a road traffic accident.

You’ll see that compensation awards start off at £240 for a whiplash injury lasting up to three months, plus an extra £20 for minor psychological injuries such as travel anxiety and shock.

This shows a drop in compensation levels when compared to the previous Judicial College personal injury compensation guidelines. Under those guidelines such an injury would have attracted a compensation award of between £300 and £1,950.

The new Whiplash Tariffs are:

  • For whiplash injuries lasting not more than three months - £240 plus £20 for minor psychological injury.
  • For whiplash injuries lasting more than three months, but not more than six months - £495 plus £25 for minor psychological injury.
  • For whiplash injuries lasting more than six months, but not more than nine months - £840 plus £55 for minor psychological injury.
  • For whiplash injuries lasting more than nine months, but not more than 12 months - £1,320 plus £70 for minor psychological injury.
  • For whiplash injuries lasting more than 12 months, but not more than 15 months - £2,040 plus £85 for minor psychological injury.
  • For whiplash injuries lasting more than 15 months, but not more than 18 months - £3,005 plus £95 for minor psychological injury.
  • For whiplash injuries lasting more than 18 months, but not more than 24 months - £4,215 plus £130 for minor psychological injury.

Under exceptional circumstances where the whiplash injury is exceptionally severe or where the person’s circumstances are exceptional, an uplift can be applied to compensation. However, this uplift cannot exceed the tariff amount by more than 20%.

The damaged front end of a car that has been involved in a crash

Six ways to minimise your risk of whiplash

Hopefully, neither you nor anyone in your taxi fleet will ever be involved in a car accident. However, driving for a living means that it’s more than likely that such an event will occur at one time or another.

So, it’s wise to be ready for such events and think about how to minimise such injuries if an accident does occur.

Unfortunately, whiplash is commonplace, especially in rear-end collisions. And you don’t even need to be driving at high speed, whiplash can happen at even low speeds.

On the other hand, modern taxi fleet vehicles are exceptionally well-engineered and becoming better equipped to deal with whiplash. Here are a few simple ways to minimise your risk of this painful injury.

 

  1. Check your headrest

Making sure your vehicle’s headrest is in the proper position when seated and driving is the number one way to prevent a whiplash injury. It really is very simple to do and well worth remembering whenever you step into your taxi, particularly if the vehicle is shared with other drivers.

The top of the headrest must be at least at the level of the top of your ears. However, it’s even better if it’s in line with the top of your head. It also needs to be close to the back of your head.

If there’s too much space between your head and the headrest, or if the headrest is too low or too high, it will increase the risk of a whiplash injury.

 

  1. Sit up straight and wear your seatbelt

If you’re slumped in your seat or leaning to one side when a collision occurs the headrest won’t be of much assistance.

Wearing your seatbelt not only prevents you from suffering even worse injuries but it also keeps you in the safest position during a crash. Having your mirrors properly adjusted means you can see behind you but also means you’re more likely to be sitting straight and not craning your neck.

 

  1. Don’t tailgate

Driving too close to the car in front is a recipe for a whiplash injury. By leaving a safe stopping distance between your car and theirs you’ll be less likely to have to make an emergency stop. Slamming on your brakes can surprise drivers behind you and could lead to a rear-end shunt.

 

  1. Get ready for impact

Sometimes we can see an accident is about to happen but can’t do anything about it. If this happens, make sure you lean all the way back in your seat with your head on the headrest, keep looking forward so your head is not turned, and try to remain in a neutral position.

 

  1. Keep fit

Being in good physical shape is as important for taxi drivers as it is for anyone else. As well as keeping you healthy it’ll also help prevent whiplash in an accident. You’ll also be pleased to hear that people who are fit generally heal quicker, too. Read our guide to the best in-car exercises  if you want to stay in great condition.

 

  1. Drive a bigger and safer car

Modern taxi fleet vehicles are increasingly being designed with whiplash-protection seats and other cutting-edge safety devices. Anything to reduce the effects of a collision is going to be money well spent. Make sure you keep safety in mind when choosing your next taxi fleet vehicle.

Follow these top tips and you and your drivers should have the best chance of avoiding whiplash injuries in future. Remember though, if you are in a collision and get whiplash, seek professional medical treatment as soon as possible.

When you know you’re okay make sure your taxi has a clean bill of health, too. Having the right taxi fleet insurance in place is the best way to get the professional input when you need it.

 

Protecting your business with taxi fleet insurance

When you’re managing a taxi fleet, a driver who is injured with whiplash or a vehicle which is off the road for repairs can have a big effect on your business.

The specialist insurance team at Taxi Insurer knows this and is always looking for ways to help get you the protection you need, and get you and your team back on the road and making money as quickly as possible.

Taxi fleet insurance from Taxi Insurer comes in many different varieties designed to suit all manner of requirements. You might want third party only, third party, fire and theft, or comprehensive cover options. It may also include any driver cover, subject to age and experience of the driver.

We can offer cover for different vehicles such as minibuses and MPVs, and a 24-hour claims management service, so your claim is dealt with swiftly and hassle-free.

Call the team at Taxi Insurer to arrange taxi fleet insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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