Personal Injury Reform Likely by April 2019 – what can you do?

10 April 2018

By Jerard Knott

I recently tweeted in reaction to the Civil Liabilities Bill “An incredibly disappointing but not unexpected response from a Parliament with no interest in putting injured people back in the position they should be after an avoidable tort. 100% compensation abandoned in favour of insurers profits.” The government is determined to reduce the access to justice for injured persons. Among the changes currently planned are:

• The small claims track for road traffic related personal injury claims will rise to £5,000 meaning that many people will be forced to fund the cost of claims themselves.

• Road traffic claims involving whiplash will be subject to a tariff system where gross under compensation will occur.

• All other personal injury claims will see a rise in the small claims track to £2,000, restricting but not barring the access to justice for injured parties.

Why is this happening?

There has been for far too long a perception of a claims culture in England and Wales, readily jumped upon by the insurers, the right wing press and politicians. National Statistics does not support this but this is conveniently ignored by the above mentioned groups. Therefore despite the lobbying by parties for the injured innocent victim, the appetite for change has strengthened.

Had the change been to increase the small claims limit to £2,000 generally there would have been little opposition as this would have reflected the inflationary change since the last setting of the small claims limit at £1,000. However the changes are punitive and aimed at restricting the access to justice. The fundamental aim is to reduce the number of claims brought. Already the Insurers are proclaiming that they expect to save £81 million pounds per annum on legal fees. The perhaps surprising element is that the Government will correspondingly surrender £20 million pounds in VAT and the NHS will suffer a loss of £6 million pounds per annum in unrecovered CRU (hospital fees) from the insurers. Put in simple figures £6 million pounds for the NHS is the equivalent of the annual cost of more than 20 mid-level experienced clinical staff, whose employment would increase patient safety.

The only group that wins are the Insurers, who of course have the power of the purse and can spend more on lobbying. If they are going to save £81 million per annum on legal fees, how much compensation are they going to avoid paying to injured parties?

What can be done?

MP’s are elected at the will of the people. Only if they feel that their position is at risk will they listen to the electorate. People need to know the truth that these reforms only benefit the insurers and that the promise of a £35 reduction in your car insurance is not really going to happen because the Government have openly admitted that they will not compel it.

Unfortunately the small claims limits are going to change. I do not think there is much we can do to stop it. However there is some movement from a limited number of MP’s who actually represent their community. It needs to be stressed that: -

• The tariff system is not the way forward and will grossly undercompensate the injured person and will benefit the insurers only.

• Cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and motorcyclists must not be subject to the tariff system and should exceptions so that they are covered by the £2,000 small claims limit as there is no evidence that non-fault road traffic accident injuries suffered [this group] include whiplash.

• The proposed extension to the recovery of NHS charges from insurers is encouraging but does not go far enough, actual cost rather than capped cost should be paid by insurers.

• Cold calling, which is propagated by data sales by insurers, must be banned. The Government is not inclined to take this action. There is undoubtedly going to be an impact on the access to justice for injured persons due to the reforms. However Curtislaw along with other prominent firms will continue to represent the needs of the innocent injured persons who have had the misfortune to suffer a non-fault road traffic accident.

Jerard Knott, Senior Associate Solicitor, is an APIL Accredited Senior Litigator and Clinical Negligence Specialist. Curtis Law are committed to promoting road safety and reducing the occurrence of preventable accidents. However when incidents to occur we will always ensure that rehabilitation is achieved and damages are maximised.