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Personal injury lawyers crank up pressure on government over whiplash reforms

Desmond Hudson of The Law Society

The government are feeling the full force of the personal injury sector over their proposals for whiplash reforms which if enforced would see the small claims limit risen from £1000 to £5000, effectively pricing accident victims out of the right to claim for compensation.

Some of the leading bodies within the industry including The Law Society, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) and the Access To Justice Group (AJAG) have argued that the incidence of fraud is exaggerated and that the proposed legislation stands only to benefit the pockets of insurers.

There is now a huge concern that the balance between claimant and defendant is set to talk a swing in the direction of the defendant leaving many genuine accident victims without representation and in the long run out of pocket.

Law Society Chief Executive, Desmond Hudson led the criticisms saying: “Different costs limits for some types of personal injury claim and other steps to place obstacles in the way of claimants will increase shareholder profits for insurers, while victims who have been injured in an accident are faced with little or no hope for justice.”

He went on to criticise the insurance lobby, claiming that their promises to the Prime Minister that the changes will reduce motor premiums were likely to be unfulfilled.

His views were supported by CILEx who said that the consultation was extremely one sided and criticised the strength of the influence that the insurance industry had on the proposals, pointing out their interests in paying out less money.

CILEx also said: “There should be no change at all to the small claims track threshold. Among other consequences, it would erode the principle of equality of arms and leave litigants in person in a very vulnerable and unequal position.”

MASS also warned against raising the limit claiming that it would severely hinder the operation of the portal system and protocol by marginalising it and rendering it obsolete in most road traffic accident cases.

They also pointed out their worry about the timescale of the reforms saying: “The proposals come as part of a wider package and should not be rushed into without fully assessing the impact of the current wave of reforms.”

AJAG didn’t hold back in their criticisms either. In their consultation response they said: “The proposals are based on the partisan contentions of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) with no objectively tested data to back them up. Genuine claimants will again see their access to justice further restricted as a result of government intervention on behalf of big business as against the individual citizen.”

It is clear that if these proposals are passed by the government then a claimant’s access to justice is effectively removed on top of the other recent changes that the government have implemented.

It is also clear to see that that reforms stand to completely tip the balance between claimant and defendant, and are clearly supporting the insurance lobby’s agenda to line their own pockets at the expense of the genuine accident victim.

On top of this, these reforms could effectively hammer the final nail in the coffin of the personal injury sector as a whole, with some firms already being forced into shutting up shop or making redundancies.

What is more the promised reduction in premiums that all of these changes are in aid of are not even certain and even representatives of some of the top insurers in the country has admitted that there is not likely to be a huge drop in the prices the consumer pays on their insurance premiums.

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1. Mortgage Solutions; http://www.mortgagesolutions.co.uk/your-community/2010/08/12/market-watch-the-lloyds-conveyancer-cull-20100812/

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