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Legal changes

Vulnerable Road Users and the whiplash reforms

We look at how Vulnerable Road Users "fit in" following the recent publication of the new protocol governing the whiplash reforms.

Claims made by Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs) are costly not only because injuries can be more severe but also because they often lead to more complex issues in terms of liability and contributory negligence.

Following the whiplash reforms, for accidents after 31 May 2021, even those who suffer minor injuries will attract more legal costs compared with car occupants suffering the same injuries. 

What is a Vulnerable Road User?

Vulnerable Road Users are defined under the new protocol as:

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists — including e-bikes
  • Moped/Motorcyclists (and pillion passengers)
  • Scooters (e-scooter is not currently defined within the rules but will almost certainly fall to be a VRU for the purpose of the legislation)
  • Wheelchairs, powered wheelchair or mobility scooter users
  • Horse riders

What does the new Pre-action Protocol say?

The protocol applies to any claim for personal injury arising out of a road traffic accident that occurs on or after 31 May 2021. These new rules apply to personal injury claims valued below £5,000 (and the total claim is valued at no more than £10,000). However, the new protocol and associated changes to the CPR confirm that these new financial limits do not apply to VRUs where personal injury is valued at more than £1,000 and these claims will proceed under the current regime.

Read more on the CPR PAP update 2021

Modal shift in transportation

During the pandemic there has been a considerable increase in VRUs, largely due to the message that we should travel alone, where possible, but also as result of the clearer road conditions. Unfortunately, during lockdown periods there was a disproportionate increase in the number of accidents involving VRUs. 

With air quality and climate change at the forefront of national and local policy decisions, there is a real push to promote micromobility (e.g. via cycle lanes and e-scooter trials). This is very much on the Government’s agenda with the health and budgetary benefits of active travel. We have seen evidence of this in the changes to the Highway Code and urban transport plans.  

What can insurers do?

It is obviously in the insurance industry’s interest to reduce accident frequency. Insurers should consider specifically promoting the safety of VRUs:

  • Education of drivers and fleet providers:
    • awareness of what is a VRU and why?
    • respecting VRUs’ rights and space on the road
    • to better understand the Highway Code and the new proposals to protect VRUs
  • Ensure vehicles are fully maintained to ensure VRUs remain safe and visible
  • Risk management for fleet and private motorists including:
    • dangerous road layouts with higher risk
    • understanding routes and frequency/proximity and volume of VRUs
  • Avoiding time pressures that potentially leads to “distracted” driving
  • Wider use of telematics to encourage safer driving
  • Consider rewarding policyholders who travel less in congested city areas where there are greater numbers of VRUs (whilst also promoting the greener urban travel agenda)
  • Wider promotion of safety technology within vehicles that helps reduce frequency and severity of accidents with VRUs

Insurers have a vested interest in reducing the number of VRUs injured but, ultimately, road safety is the key and the successful promotion of this will be to everyone’s benefit including VRUs. 

For more guidance on the whiplash reforms, contact our motor insurance lawyers.

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