Guide to Soft Tissue Injuries

Posted on: 9 mins read
Last updated:
Tina Wilson

Litigation Executive, Road Traffic Accidents

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In 2016, former Justice Secretary Jack Straw criticized the personal injury industry, alleging the existence of a "compensation culture" in the UK. Nicola Darlington, a Partner at Simpson Millar, highlights that soft tissue injuries have faced scrutiny from officials in response to these concerns.

For far too long, attention has been on the world of soft tissue claims, because of the bad attention that whiplash carries with it. But whiplash is not the sole soft tissue injury, even though the government’s policy was titled ‘Reforming the Soft Tissue Injury (whiplash) Claims Process’. Soft Tissue Injuries can cover a plethora of injuries that are caused by an accident, however whiplash solely related to neck injury, usually caused by rear-end car accidents.

This common misconception is because whiplash is the most claimed compensation in the UK, with more than 1,500 claims every single day. This costs the insurance industry more than £2 billion every year, which is why the government felt a need to address this ‘compensation culture’.

Whilst UK Parliament estimate that 11% of these claims are ‘tainted by fraud’ the majority still hold legitimacy, due to the soft tissue element. If you have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, this shouldn’t put you off from claiming for a Soft Tissue Injury Claim. Reach out to our friendly and straightforward Personal Injury Solicitors to discuss how we could help.

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To find out more about how we can help you following an accident, get in touch with our friendly and compassionate personal injury team

What is a Soft Tissue injury?

Soft tissue injury (STI) is a term used to describe damage to the muscle, ligaments, or tendons anywhere on the body. Soft tissue provides support, stability, and protection to the bones in our body – as such, injuries of this nature can have a lasting effect and can often affect the ability to perform daily tasks.

Most soft tissue injuries are a result of a sudden unexpected, or uncontrolled movement, like rolling your ankle, or general sprains and contusions.

Soft Tissue Damage can include:

  • Bruises, sprains, and strains
  • Cartilage damage
  • The complete rupture of a muscle or tendon
  • Tendinitis or bursitis

Soft tissue damage often results in immediate and severe pain, occasionally accompanied by swelling. However, it's important to understand that swelling doesn't consistently manifest right away. As days pass after a soft tissue injury, bruising may become visible.

Additionally, in the immediate aftermath of such an injury, individuals might experience symptoms such as instability, difficulty bearing weight on the affected area, stiffness, and restricted movement.

Given the potential severity of soft tissue injuries, it's highly advisable to seek prompt medical attention after any trauma to ensure proper evaluation and appropriate care.

Are Soft Tissue Injuries Only Suffered in Car Accidents?

It is a common error in the industry that the term “soft tissue injuries” can only occur as a result of a car accident, and that it only covers injuries like whiplash.

Many of the public figures, including the government, that have spoken out against soft tissue injury compensation use the term whiplash interchangeably with soft tissue damage –all of which has given soft tissue injury claims a bad reputation.

Nicola explains why this is particularly dangerous:

"The danger with confusing all soft tissue injuries with whiplash injury is that any legislation or regulations against the latter could unfairly affect claims for the former. When we talk about soft tissue injuries in relation to car accidents there seems to be a common misunderstanding that soft tissue damage can only happen on the road – again this is a dangerous misconception that needs to be tackled."

Soft tissue injuries can be sustained anywhere, as a result of a number of incidents, often slips, trips, and falls. Tissue damage is probably a more common injury than bone injuries like breaks or fractures.

Understanding that soft tissue damage is not limited to road traffic accidents and is not completely covered by the term whiplash is crucial when challenging common misconceptions.

Simply put, soft tissue damage can occur when muscles, tendons, or ligaments are overused, or if they suffer a sudden trauma. Most soft tissue injuries occur from sudden unexpected or uncontrolled movement – which is why so many road traffic accidents can result in a soft tissue, or whiplash claim.

It is also important to note that soft tissue injuries can also occur as a result of over or repetitive use of a particular muscle group; which is where the realm of tennis elbow and golf shoulder come in to play.

How Long Can Soft Tissue Injuries take to Heal?

The amount of time a soft tissue injury can take to heal depends on a number of factors, namely:

  • The severity of the injury
  • The location of the damage
  • The age and general health of the individual that has been injured
  • How often the injured area is used during the healing process

For low-level soft tissue injuries healing could take up to 2 weeks, however some soft tissue damage can take longer to heal than some bone fracture injuries.

For example, a fracture of a limb can heal without any complication within 3-6 months, however a soft tissue injury to the same body part can often take longer to heal. This is because treating a soft tissue injury is more difficult than certain bone injuries, as Nicola explains:

"Recovery from soft tissue injuries is generally, in my experience, more complicated. For example, if you fracture your ankle, you are put in a cast. This cast prevents you from using the ankle and allows the bone time to heal. However, if you hurt your back, they can’t put you in a cast, you can’t be immobilised so that you aren’t using the injured muscles to give them a chance to heal. This means that every time you get up, walk around, or use your muscle to sit upright the injured area is being used.”

"Unfortunately soft tissue injuries cannot always be seen like a bone injury – which appears on an x-ray – meaning that individuals that suffer soft tissue damage can be dismissed and told that the injury will settle over time, resulting in a delay to access to treatment."

Why Are Soft Tissue Damage Claims Considered Fraudulent?

 Due to the inability to see physical evidence of a soft tissue injury, as clearly as you can see a broken bone, they are considered harder to prove, but this does not mean that it is fraudulent.

Soft tissue damage exists and can have serious consequences on an individual's life, people with soft tissue injuries can struggle to perform simple tasks and can find themselves missing days at work to recover from their injury.

Gaining access to the right medical specialists who understand the nature of soft tissue injuries will go a long way to helping prove the loss caused by an injury; this is also important in ensuring that people have access to the rehabilitation they need to aid their recovery.

Responding to the opinion of public figures that dismiss soft tissue damage as part of a so-called "compensation culture", Nicola says, "Compensation claims should be seen as recuperating from a loss, the perception that individuals somehow profit from a soft tissue injury is as dangerous as the opinion that soft tissue injuries only occur in road traffic accidents. Soft tissue injuries are real injuries; they can be so debilitating that they often attract higher awards for damages than other types of injuries.".

How Much Compensation Can I Claim for a Soft Tissue Injury?

 Most personal injury claims are split into General Damages and Special Damages.

General damages

General damages take into account how serious your injury is, the pain and suffering you’ve experienced and how your injury is affecting your life. Our lawyers use the Judicial College Guidelines as a guide to value your general damages.

Judicial College Guidelines
16th Edition for back injuries 


Severe - damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots – leading to very serious consequences not normally found in back injuries e.g. severe pain and disability, incomplete paralysis and significantly impaired bladder, bowel, and sexual function.

£38,780 to £160,980

Moderate (Type 1) – cases where the symptoms are less severe than those above, but may include continuous pain, reduced mobility or the need for surgery

£27,760 to £38,780

Moderate (Type 2) - many frequently encountered back injuries e.g. damage to ligaments and muscles causing backache, soft tissue injuries resulting in the worsening of a pre-existing back condition, or prolapsed discs

£12,510 to £27,760

Minor – less serious strains, sprains, disc prolapses, soft tissue injuries, or fracture injuries which recover without surgery

£2,450 to £12,510

It’s important to note, the amount of damages (compensation) awarded in any personal injury claim depends entirely on the nature of the injury. With serious injuries, it’s likely the largest part of your total award will be special damages.

This is very different to the new reform in relation to solely whiplash, as the amount of compensation you can claim for whiplash range from £240 up to £4,215, depending on the length of time you suffer from your injuries. But, other soft tissue injuries, where deemed necessary, will be all down to the nature of the injury.

Special damages

Special damages are unique to you and your circumstances. We will advise on what we think the right figure is for you, taking into account:

  • Any financial costs you’ve already incurred as a result of your injury;
  • Anything you may need to pay for in the future e.g. loss of earnings, treatment and rehabilitation;

Establishing causation, the severity, and the duration of an injury are the vital pieces of information in placing a value on any compensation claim. Once this has been identified, the Judicial College's guidelines on the assessment of General Damages outline the difference brackets of compensation claims.

Even the Judicial College's guidelines themselves outline the often-precarious nature of a soft tissue injury, as Nicola explains;

 "If we look at a common back injury as the starting point of an example claim, the lowest bracket highlight in the Judicial College's guidelines covers minor back injury – this would cover a short-term tissue injury. Depending on the length of injury and recovery time the award for a back injury can be as much as £10,450 - however this is the top end of the bracket and covers injuries that could take up to 5 years to heal.

"If we focus on Judicial College's guidance on foot injuries we can see the serious nature of soft tissue damage, as a soft tissue injury to the foot can attract an award similar to that of a bone fracture, providing the recovery time is similar. This highlights that you are not necessarily compensated for the ‘nature’ of your injury – for example a fracture or a soft tissue injury – you are instead compensated for how long your injury takes to heal, as well as how severe the effects of the injury were and may continue to be.”

Get Legal Advice from a Personal Injury Solicitor

If you have been involved in an accident that you suspect caused a soft tissue injury, it is important that you do not feel put off from making a completely justified claim because of the perception of some leading public figures.

At Simpson Millar, our Personal Injury Solicitors have extensive experience of standing up for members of the public, ensuring that individuals receive a fair compensation amount after they have been involved in an accident that was not their fault. Call us on 0808 239 3227 for a no obligation conversation to discuss your claim.


UK Parliament. (2018, September 4). "Civil Liability Bill (Lords)." Hansard. Available at:

UK Government. (2022, March 22). "Reforming the Soft Tissue Injury Whiplash Claims Process." Available at:

Association of British Insurers (ABI). (Publication date not specified). "Whiplash Claims." Available at:

UK Parliament Committees. (2018). "Written evidence - The prevalence of fraud is 0.22%, which is..." Available at:

The Physiotherapy Clinics. (Publication date not specified). "Soft Tissue Injuries." Available at:

NHS. (Publication date not specified). "Whiplash." Available at:

NHS. (Publication date not specified). "Tennis Elbow." Available at:

Medical News Today. (2022, December 7). "Knee Fracture: Symptoms, Treatment, and More." Available at:

Judicial Council. (Publication date not specified). "Personal Injuries Guidelines." Available at:

UK Government. (2021, May 31). "Whiplash Reform Programme: Information and FAQ." Available at:

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