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Government launches whiplash consultation
Last week government ministers signaled their intent to drastically overhaul access to justice for personal injury claims with a new Ministry of Justice consultation on the personal injury claims system.
The consultation report proposes radical reforms to claims resulting from soft tissue injuries caused by road traffic accidents – the majority of which are whiplash claims. Secretary of State for Justice Liz Truss has said she wants to curb “rampant compensation culture” and reduce the number of “minor, fraudulent and exaggerated” whiplash claims.
Some of the proposed changes include:
- Limiting soft tissue injury claims to £400-£450 (the average successful, non fraudulent and genuine whiplash claim currently receives £1,850)
- Raising the limit on what is classed as a ‘small claim’ from £1,000 to £5,000
- Limiting the value of claims for road traffic injuries which last for six or nine months after the accident
- Banning the rapid settlement of claims before a medical report is obtained
Whilst the consultation suggests that the proposed reforms could knock £40 per year off the average driver’s insurance, legal experts have warned that the proposals will need careful examination and refinement if they are to become law.
In particular, concerns have been raised regarding the fairness of treating road traffic accidents differently to other personal injury claims, as well as the question of whether insurance company savings will be passed on to consumers.
Responding to the consultation, Adrian Stone, senior associate solicitor and personal injury specialist at Barcan+Kirby, commented:
“I don’t understand why, given all the problems that the government is facing, it is focusing on a non existent problem of fraudulent or exaggerated claims. It’s true that the tiny minority of fraudulent claims reflect badly on the legal system as a whole but to pretend that this is a genuine problem is not accurate.
It beggars belief that reducing compensation across the board for injured people by over 200% is a means of preventing fraud and exaggeration. The legal system is excellent in identifying those issues.
In particular, some of the suggested reforms to ‘minor’ soft tissue claims fly in the face of natural justice and equality under the law. The idea that a road traffic accident victim’s suffering is worth less than that of someone injured by other means is quite unpalatable and clearly not right.
If your flight is delayed by four hours you are entitled to more than the proposed fixed amount for an actual bodily injury. This is an unfair proposal and nothing more than an attempt to restrict access to justice for the benefit of insurance companies who won’t pass on any savings to their customers.”