road accident small claims

Road Accident Small Claims Limit For Personal Injury From 31 May 2021

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.

Table Of Contents

What does the small claims limit in 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 from the driver-at-fault your own solicitor’s legal costs in making your claim.

When Can You Claim Legal Costs?
Only if your claim is above the small claims limit can your legal costs be claimed in addition to your compensation for personal injury and financial loss.
In other words – you claim compensation for your injuries plus your legal costs in making the claim.

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 agreement would not be available. Therefore, you would have to meet your solicitor’s costs in helping you make a claim.

As your legal costs would quite likely be more than the compensation you could recover, most solicitors would advise you that it is not in your interest to use a solicitor and would refuse to act.

You Can Use A Solicitor If You Have Legal Protection Cover
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?

Small claims limit was £1,000 for accidents prior to 31 May 2021

Prior to the 31 May 2021 – the small claims limit for road accidents was set at £1,000.

Small Claims Limit Was The Same For All Types Of Personal Injury
The small claims limit amount of £1,000 was the same for all types of personal injury claim – whether a road accident, work injury, clinical negligence, industrial disease, etc.

Increase in small claims limit to £5,000 for accidents from 31 May 2021

However, on the 31 May 2021 new laws for road traffic accident claims came into force in England and Wales. These laws 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 – increasing the threshold from £1,000 to £5,000.

In other words – for accidents on or 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.

road accident personal injury small claims
Road Accident Personal Injury Small Claims

England and Wales

The change in the small claims limit only applies to accidents in England and Wales that occurred on or after 31 May 2021.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

The other legal jurisdictions of the UK – Scotland and Northern Ireland, are not affected by this law.

Are road accidents that took place prior to 31 May 2021 included?

“No” – 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.

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 – Personal Injury And Vehicle Damage
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 – Personal Injury And Lost Income
imagine you suffered a whiplash neck injury in a car accident due to the fault of another driver. As a result of the whiplash you had 6 months off work as a building contractor losing £2,000 per month.
If you instructed a solicitor to deal with your personal injury – the lost income would be part and parcel of that claim.
Thus, your overall claim would be in excess of £10,000. Clearly 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 certain types of injured party.

You must be in a motor vehicle protected by a metal cage

All modern motor vehicles in which you travel inside effectively protect the occupants in a metal cage. These occupants should receive less of an injury – or at least the government and insurance industry believe so.

Therefore, the road accident small claims limit increase only applies to an injured party that is in a motor vehicle, effectively protected by a metal cage. Examples include car drivers or passengers, van drivers, lorry drivers, bus passengers, etc.

When You Are In A Vehicle You Are Not Vulnerable
The vehicle you are travelling in is designed to protect you and other occupants with a metal cage structure. Therefore, you are not considered vulnerable to injury.

Excludes vulnerable road users

However- if you a road user who does not have the protection of a metal cage you are classed as a “vulnerable road user”. In other words – you are open to significant injury if involved in a road accident with a vehicle.

Examples of vulnerable road users – include: pedestrians, motorcyclists, moped risers, pillion or sidecar passengers, pedestrians, pedal cyclists, horse riders, mobility scooter users, etc.)

If you are a vulnerable road user – the new law specifically excludes you from the increased small claims limit. Thus, the lower small claims limit of £1,000 will remain for your claim.

Does the increase in the small claims limit apply to children and protected parties?

The increase in the small claims limit does not apply to children or protected parties, even if they were inside a car or other vehicle protected by a metal cage.

You will see later that some special rules apply.

Who is classed as a child?

For the purpose of the law in England and Wales a child is classed as someone under the age of 18 years.

Children are considered too young to manage their own legal affairs and so are unable to make a claim on their own behalf.

Thus, 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.

Who is classed as a protected party?

Similar to children all types of “protected parties” are considered unable to manage their own legal affairs and will need a litigation friend to help make a personal injury claim.

What are the new rules applying to children and special parties?

Since the 31 May 2021 new rules were introduced for children and protected parties injured in road accident. The rule depends on whether whiplash is suffered or not.

A child or protected party who suffers a whiplash

The small claims limit was removed completely for children and protected parties who suffer a whiplash injury (or a whiplash and another injury) in a road accident.

If you are a child or protected party – your claim will automatically be allocated to the fast track legal process where the majority of legal fees can be recovered by the Claimant as part of the personal injury claim.

No whiplash suffered by a child or protected party

If you are a child or protected party injured in motor vehicle accident, but did not suffer a whiplash injury then the small claims limit of £1,000 will apply as it did prior to the changes on 31 May 2021.

Are there other instances when the personal injury small claims limit for road accidents 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:

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.

Husband Passes Away Before Whiplash Claim Issued At Court
Imagine your husband is involved in a car accident and suffers whiplash. However, 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.
In this instance the small claims limit of £1,000 would apply.

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.

Lorry Driver Has European Motor Insurance
Imagine, a lorry driver who was at fault for colliding with your car causing your personal injury in a road accident in England. This lorry driver was driving with European motor insurance.
Here the small claims limit of £1,000 would apply.

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.

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. We explain how the amount of compensation you can claim for whiplash injuries (whiplash lasting up to two years) became subject to a tariff system for accidents from 31 May 2021. The tariff system significantly reduced the amount of compensation you could recover.

Free Online Specialist Solicitor Help

Should you be uncertain if your claim is a small claim or not – we offer free online / telephone specialist solicitor help. You can ask a question and we can help determine whether your claim should be a small claim or a larger one in which you can use a solicitor to help you claim.

Remember – you can have your solicitor’s fees paid by the party at fault in addition to your compensation.