Two weeks ago the Lord Chancellor, George Osborne, delivered the Government’s Autumn Statement and drove a huge stake thought the hearts of genuine victims of whiplash and personal injury solicitors, up and down the country, in one foul swoop.
As part of the Government’s plans to as they put it “crack down on fraud and claims culture in motor insurance”, they proposed to remove the ability for whiplash victims to seek financial redress for their injuries in favour of a rehabilitation only package and perhaps most devastatingly, an increase to the small claims limit to £5,000, which all ends small injury claims.
On top of this there are also proposals to reduce the limitation period, for which the victim of a soft tissue or whiplash injury would have lest time to submit their claim for compensation and redress.
This will leave thousands of people suffering without financial redress to cover such expenses as loss of earnings and will also see legal representation for claims that fall under the £5,000 disappear, forcing claimants to either go it alone in the courts as a litigant in person, or to deal with insurers directly. Both of these options will almost certainly leave victims short changed at the hands of the insurers.
Scott Rees and Co Solicitor and Partner, David Byrne, has hit back at the Government’s proposals and has suggested that there are alternatives to tackling fraud within the industry, without reduce the legal profession to its knees and forcing the mass closure of law firms across the country, who can no longer sustainably offer their services under the current proposals.
He said: “These proposals are incredibly short sighted and as I have mentioned previously, the only real winners that would emerge from the introduction of these proposals, would be the insurers. Everyone else, including the insurance premium motorist will suffer in the long run, one way or another.”
“What is frustrating is that there are other options that would both preserve a genuine whiplash victim’s right to redress, as well as help to stamp out fraud from the motor insurance industry,”
“One of these methods would be for the Government to calculate the prescribed amount of damaged that would usually be awarded to a road traffic accident victim who has suffered a minor soft tissue injury, along with supporting evidence by way of a letter/report from a GP or suitably qualified physician, that proves that the victim’s injury is real, before any compensation award can be made.”
“This would do away with and avoid the difficulty involved in changing the law to prevent an injured party from seeking redress for their injury, while at the same time make it impossible for a fraudulent claim to be successful.”
“The normal cost of providing the evidence to support the legitimacy of the claimant’s minor whiplash claim, would be born by the third party insurer.”
“By making it impossible to submit a whiplash claim without this medical evidence, fraudsters will be dissuaded from trying to submit future claims and the cost to the premium paying motorist will be reduced. At the same time, the genuine whiplash victim can still seek and gain the redress they need to ensure they can make a full recovery and deal with any loss of earnings that may come around because of their injury.”
“When it comes to the limitation period there is also a much favourable alternative, as opposed to reducing it and forcing victims to miss out on claim.”
“We could introduce a requirement for a Claim Notification Form (CNF) to be lodged through the RTA Portal within 12 months of an accident.”
“Then having lodged the CNF, the client’s three year limitation period is retained and protected should they wish or need to submit a claim at a later date and in the instance where a CNF is not submitted within 12 months of their accident, the client would lose their right to pursue a claim for compensation.”
“What these suggestions go to prove is that there are other ways to tackle fraud within the personal injury profession and that it does not have to end with a large chunk of firms being forced from the UK’s high streets”
“There are other ways where everyone can win, rather than just the insurers and most importantly of all, there are ways that can ensure we retain the right to access to justice for genuine accident victims out there.”
Since the proposals for whiplash and small claims were announced a petition has been circulated and has now reached over 19,000 signatures, which means the Government are forced to respond.
If you want to help protect your access to justice by keeping the small claims limit for personal injury claims, then follow this link and sign the petition