UPDATE: Changes to Whiplash Law

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Within the past 18 months, the Government has changed how the courts can treat people who exaggerate the level of their injuries in Road Traffic Accident (RTA) claims.

UPDATE: Changes to Whiplash Law

Denitsa Nedyalkova, an RTA litigator, examines what these changes mean for anybody seeking compensation.

Update To Whiplash Laws

In April of last year, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 set about altering various aspects of the UK's criminal justice system.

One of these changes came in Section 57, which determined how a court should handle somebody who is found to have been 'fundamentally dishonest' in a personal injury claim.

Prior to the Act coming into force, it was rare for a court to strike out an entire claim if the claimant was found to be exaggerating some of their symptoms. It was usually the case that damages would be awarded in relation to the honest part of their claim.

What The New Law Says

That is no longer the case, with the key passages in the new law stating:

"On an application by the defendant for the dismissal of the claim... where the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the claimant has been fundamentally dishonest in relation to the primary claim or a related claim... The court must dismiss the primary claim."

"The duty includes the dismissal of any element of the primary claim in respect of which the claimant has not been dishonest."

What This Means

Under the new law and upon application by the defendant, if a court is satisfied that a claimant has lied about the extent of their injuries and this misrepresentation or exaggeration goes to the heart of their case, the entire claim can be struck out.

Additionally, the claimant is then required to pay the defendant's costs.

The crucial factor here is that the dishonesty has to be 'fundamental' for it to result in the claimant's case being thrown out. However, there is no clear definition in the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) as to what actually constitutes 'fundamental dishonesty'.

The Changes in Practice

A recent case highlighted this change in the law, when two claimants were found to have misled a medical expert as to the ongoing nature of their injuries.

Initially, they said they were still suffering 6 weeks after the accident and then claimed that their alleged symptoms would last for a further 12 months. This was rejected by the presiding Judge, who dismissed the case and ordered the claimants to pay the defendant's costs, saying they had: "Presented a deliberately inaccurate position to the medical expert for financial gain."

Denitsa comments:

"Giving inconsistent and contradicting evidence for any injuries sustained is something that is not to be taken lightly. The law has been changed to filter genuine claims from the dishonest ones."

"Although this is a positive change towards getting rid of fraudulent claims, honest and vulnerable claimants could find themselves in a situation where their credibility is put into question due to the fact that they had offered an unclear account of the injury."

"For this reason it is advisable that all personal injury claimants keep a pain diary or a written chronology of events from the onset of their claim."

If you wish to make a road traffic accident claim, you need a law firm with both the knowhow and experience to ensure you get the compensation you are entitled to. Simpson Millar has a specialist RTA team ready to handle your claim.

To find out how we could help you please make a no-obligation enquiry or call freephone: 0808 129 3320.

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