You may or may not be aware of the legal reforms planned in the area of road traffic accident personal injury claims, which are currently expected to be implemented through a Civil Liability Bill in April 2020. If you are unfamiliar and are interested or may be affected by any changes to the law, it is well worth undertaking some further research into the situation, or you can take a look at our earlier blog for some background information.
Draft Civil Liability Bill – What’s Changed?
The draft Civil Liability Bill containing the proposed changes had its second reading at the House of Commons on 4th September 2018, once again bringing controversy over this issue to the surface. Many still oppose the intended increase of the small claims court limit to £5,000 from where it currently sits at £1,000, pointing out that genuine claimants will likely be forced to bring claims for serious injuries, such as facial scarring or fractured ribs, without any expert legal assistance. A concession to this limit increase was announced by Lord Chancellor David Gauke, but only for those qualifying as vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. These groups will see the small claims limit rise to £2,000 instead, and will therefore have the capability to recover the costs of legal representation for significantly less severe injuries than drivers. It is worth noting that this still exceeds the recommendation by the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, which is for the limit to be increased to £1,500.
Whiplash Reforms and Fraudulent Claims
The need for such a steep rise in the small claims court limit from £1,000 to £5,000 continues to largely be attributed to combating fraudulent claims, with Mr Gauke citing that, “In 2017, the insurance industry identified almost 70,000 motor insurance claims that it considered to be fraudulent.” This position has been strongly contested by opponents of the suggested changes, with Law Society president Christina Blacklaws stating “The government has tried to portray the reforms as a bid to reduce the cost of motor insurance by tackling questionable whiplash claims. This is a fallacy. Proven fraudulent whiplash claims amount to only 0.25% of all claims.” This percentage was obtained through an analysis by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers on data collated by the Association of British Insurers.
Some say that another type of claimant which should also fall under this lower limit are workers, such as ambulance or HGV drivers, but there is no indication any such amendments are being considered. Most refer to concerns about the average person making a claim of up to £5,000 being expected to contend without legal assistance with the extensive experience and resources of insurance companies.
Clearly this is a critical time for this area of law, and what comes of these reforms will have a massive effect on the many thousands of people injured each year through no fault of their own. As there is certainly much more to these changes than I have had time to consider here, please note that if you have any queries about how these legal reforms may affect a personal injury claim, we here at Farleys are always available to provide any advice or assistance that we can. To speak to a personal injury specialist please call 0845 287 0939 or email us through our online contact form.