When George Osborne announced in his autumn statement that he intended to raise the small claims limit to £5,000 and put an end to all minor soft tissue damage claims, insurers jumped for joy over the cost savings.
The legal industry, however, diligently fought the corner of UK citizens and swore to fight for access to justice. Some of those concerns have been answered as ministers have indicated whiplash reforms will not be a priority moving forward.
Liz Truss displaced George Osborne as Justice Secretary Post Brexit
Wrong way to tackle fraud
When they were announced, the reforms, planned by George Osborne, were supposedly to “tackle fraud” , but in doing so, would be at the expensive of genuine claimants who would have restricted access to free legal care via the ‘no win no fee system’.
Tackling whiplash fraud by scrapping soft tissue damages was a popular move with insurers, as it would no doubt protect the recent profit increases that they have enjoyed. However, at the same time, the reforms would have frozen out genuine claimants from receiving damages to cover loss of earnings, accrued, for example, by the time they would need to take off work to undergo physiotherapy and a full recovery.
The legal industry took action and pleaded the case for claimants stating that their were alternative methods to root out fraud, which would avoid forcing personal injury victims to suffer because of the unethical actions of a few.
Not a priority
The Brexit campaign was what ultimately befouled George Osborne. After his departure, it was expected for Liz Truss MP to follow suit and continue his work. Ministers have, however, told dumbfounded insurers that they were not enthusiastic about pushing through with the suggested whiplash reforms or with the increase of the small claims limit.
The move is a brave one for Truss to make, although the caveat to the announcement is that the Justice Secretary will still look to reduce whiplash claims in other ways. It does, though, give the legal community the chance to work with the government in suggesting better methods of preventing motor insurance fraud than the previously planned scattergun approach.
Despite being considered a “minor” injury, whiplash can have long term effects on health
We have been very vocal in the wake of the announced reforms alongside our colleagues within the profession. Having represented clients with soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash and other victims of the perceived minor injuries that these reforms would have affected for over 20 years, we feel this is a small victory in a much larger fight to make sure people with legitimate injuries have access to the best legal care no matter what background they come from or what their circumstances are.
The insurance profession will not be so delighted to hear the news. Director of general insurance policy a the Association or British Insurers, James Dalton, continued to back the initial proposals in the Times this morning.
He said: We support the Government’s proposals to reform the civil justice system that will save motorists £50 a year on average but every day of delay costs honest motorists. The UK has the weakest necks in Europe, with nearly 80 per cent of bodily injury claims being whiplash, compared to 30 percent in France.”
However, there are other ways to tackle the number of spurious whiplash claims being made on UK roads, as outlined by Scott Rees & Co Partner, David Byrne, and the fact that there is a higher population of vehicles on a smaller land scale in the UK, when compared to France, which is another possible reason for a higher percentage of soft tissue injuries such as whiplash.
Those clamouring for the UK’s roads to be more like French, should probably take a look at the figures for road deaths, where they will see that our neighbours across the channel have a greater problem than us.
If you’d like to know more about the work we do for a whiplash victim, you can take a look at our whiplash injury services page here. To get in touch with us directly regarding making a claim, you can call on 01695 722 222 or by contacting us online directly.
We applaud Liz Truss’ decision to currently halt the plans and hope that she does eventually scrap them in favour of better regulated claims management procedures that do not punish the general public.
- Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f6/Liz_Truss_MP,_Minister_for_Education_and_Childcare,_at_her_speech_setting_out_government_plans_to_promote_more_great_childcare.jpg
- Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/Whiplash.png