Road Accident Small Claims Limit From 31 May 2021: When can you claim your solicitor’s costs in claiming personal injury compensation
Find out what the small claims limit is; how the new small claims limit for personal injury In a road accident changed from the 31 May 2021; the effect of financial loss on the small claims limit; why the change does not affect vulnerable road users or injured children with exceptions to whom the small claims limit applies and the new government online portal for making a small claim for personal injury in a road accident.
What does the small claims limit in a road accident claims mean?
The small claims limit described the minimum amount of compensation that you must recover in a road accident claim for personal injury (pain, suffering and loss of amenity – known as general damages), which would allow you to claim the majority of your solicitor’s legal costs in representing you from the driver at fault.
Be aware – legal costs are claimed in addition to your compensation for personal injury and financial loss when your claim is above the small claims limit.
In practical terms this means that when a claim is a small claim – you cannot use a solicitor to help you make your claim as a no win no fee funding sgreement would not be available and you would have to meet your solicitor’s costs in helping you make a claim. As your legal costs would be likely more than the compensation you could recover – a solicitor would advise you that is not in your interest to use a solicitor and typically refuse to act in your own interest.
Exception – you may have some form of legal protection on your motor policy that would fund an insurance panel solicitor to help you make a claim. Legal protection cover should fund any level of claim – whether a small claim or otherwise. Under a legal protection policy it is your insurer that meets your solicitor’s legal costs when the claim is small not the person at fault.
What happened to the road accident claim small claims limit on 31 May 2021?
Prior to the 31 May 2021 – the small claims limit for road accidents was set at £1,000. This amount was the same for all types of personal injury claim – whether a road accident, work injury, clinical negligence, industrial disease, etc.
However, on the 31 May 2021 new laws for road traffic accident claims came into force in England and Wales, which made several changes on how to claim for whiplash and other personal injuries in a road accident. One of the changes was to the small claims limit – which was to increase the threshold from £1,000 to £5,000.
In other words – for accidents after 31 May 2021 your pain and suffering for whiplash or other injuries in a road accident had to be £5,000 or more to allow your solicitor to recover the majority of your legal costs in making a claim.
Be aware – the change in the small claims limit only applied to accidents in England and Wales that occurred on or after 31 May 2021. The other legal jurisdictions of the UK – Scotland and Northern, are not affected by this law.
Road accidents that occurred prior to the 31 May 2021 (even if the personal injury claim is commenced after 31 May 2021) are still subject to the lower small claims limit of £1,000.
What if the road accident causes financial loss and expense as well as personal injury?
If your overall claim combined including personal injury, lost income, vehicle damage, etc. is over £10,000 and all the items are dealt with in one claim by one legal representative – in this instance your claim will no longer be classed as a small claim.
Example 1: Imagine your car is brand new costing you £20,000 and is written-off in a road accident, but your injuries is only a modest whiplash with symptoms of 6 months. The combined total of loss and personal injury would result in a compensation payout of well beyond the £10,000, which is despite your personal injury being well below the £5,000 threshold. Thus, if you had a solicitor deal with both your personal injury and vehicle damage in one claim – this should be beyond the small claims limit of overall loss of £10,000, so your legal costs could be claimed.
If however – as is most often the case – your own insurer or the third party insurer dealt direct with your vehicle damage, the claim your solicitor would be helping your with for personal injury alone would be below the £5,000 small claims threshold.
Example 2: You suffered a whiplash neck injury in a car accident due to the fault of another driver and as a result of the whiplash you had 6 months off work as a building contractor losing £2000 per month. If you instructed a solicitor to deal with your personal injury – the lost income would be part and parcel of that claim and as such the overall claim would be in excess of £10,000 – hence not a small claim despite the compensation for personal injury being less than £5,000.
Does the change in the small claims limit apply to all types of road accident?
“No” – the increased small claims limit for road accidents only apply to an injured party that is in a motor vehicle, effectively protected by a metal cage.
In other words – if you are a car driver or passenger, van driver, lorry driver, bus passengers, etc. – the vehicle you are travelling in is designed to protect occupants with a metal cage structure. As such you are not considered vulnerable to injury.
If however- you are classed as a “vulnerable road user” (such as a pedestrian, a motorcyclist, a pillion or sidecar passenger, a pedestrian, a pedal cyclist, a horse rider, a mobility scooter user, etc.) you do not have the protection of a metal cage and as such the new law specifically excludes the increased small claims limit and so the lower limit of £1,000 will remain for those claims.
What if the injured party in a car or other vehicle protected with a metal cage is a child?
The increase in the small claims limit does not apply to children even if they were inside a car or other vehicle protected by a metal cage. Children are one type of “protected party” and are considered too young to have capacity to make a claim on their own behalf.
For the purpose of the law in England and Wales a child is classed as someone under the age of 18 years.
A child cannot make a claim in their own right and must use a litigation friend, such as a parent, to help them claim. Our child injury claims article explains the process of claiming for children.
Be aware – Similar to children all types of “protected parties” who do not have capacity – are similarly not subject to the increase to the road accident personal injury small claims limit. For example – an adult with a metal disability may be considered a “protected party”.
Are there any other instances when the road accident personal injury small claims limit will not apply?
“Yes” – a few other very specific instances when the new small claim £5,000 limit for road accident personal injuries will not apply, include:
i) The injury victim is deceased
At the time the claim is commenced the injury victim is deceased and the claim is made by the personal representatives of the deceased person. For example – your husband is involved in a car accident and suffers whiplash, but before his claim is issued at court he dies from natural causes. You are the representative of his estate and make his claim on his behalf and in this instance the small claims limit of £1,000 would apply.
ii) The vehicle that caused the accident is registered outside of the UK.
On the date of the road accident – the driver at fault’s vehicle was registered outside the United Kingdom. For example, a lorry driver was at fault that European motor insurance.
iii) Undischarged bankrupts.
On the date that proceedings are started, the injured party making a claim for personal injury is an undischarged bankrupt,
Is there an easy way to make a small road accident personal injury claim?
“Yes” – the Motor Insurers Bureau / MIB has developed the official injury claim portal, which is an online process to allow small road accident personal injury claims to be made direct by the injured party.
The Motor Insurance Bureau also provides some guidance as to how the online scheme operates.
Road Accident Small Claims Limit Summary & Next Steps
In this article – you have seen how the small claims limit for personal injury in road accident claim increased from £1,000 to £5,000 limiting your ability to instruct a solicitor to help you claim. You have seen exceptions to this rule with a link to an online small claims track portal to help you claim in person.
We recommend you see our whiplash compensation payouts article – that describes how the amount of compensation you can claim for whiplash injuries was significantly reduced from 31 May 2021.
Free Online Specialist Solicitor Help
Should you be uncertain if your claim is a small claim or not – we offer free online specialist solicitor help to determine whether your claim should be a small claim or a larger one in which you can use a solicitor and have your solicitor’s fees paid by the party at fault in addition to your compensation.