The ‘whiplash’ reforms will injure us all

The Queens Speech included a pledge by the government to crack on with the previous proposals to ‘tackle the compensation culture’ by bringing in whiplash reforms under a Civil Liability Bill. This has been to the delight of the insurers.

What the reforms will do:

Road accident victims suffering whiplash

a) Prevent accident victims who suffer whiplash injuries in road traffic accidents from having access to legal representation if their injury claim is valued at under £5,000. That’s roughly 80% of road accident injury claims.

b) Require any road accident victim who wishes to instruct a solicitor to pay all legal costs out of their own compensation for injury claims of £5,000 or under . Neither the defendant nor their insurer will have to pay any of the claimant’s legal costs.

c) Set a fixed tariff scheme for road accident compensation for ‘minor’ injuries lasting up to 2 years. For example a 6-month injury will be limited to £400 compensation, with an extra £25 for any psychological suffering. This will undermine the common law and Judicial College Guidelines, which are currently used to assess compensation and have been built up over many, many years. The figures in the tariff scheme have been set by the insurance industry without any explanation despite them being up to 75% less than the current level of awards.

d) The fixed tariff scheme will effectively move the vast majority of road accident injury claims into the sub £5,000 bracket, meaning that legal representation will not be available, requiring claimants who have been injured by another’s negligence to claim against the insurer directly, unless they choose to pay a lawyer out of their own limited compensation (which is very unlikely as few lawyers would be able to run a claim for a 6-month injury for less than £400, which is the maximum compensation they’ll be entitled to).

All other accident victims

e) Prevent all other accident victims injured (say at work, in a restaurant or as a cyclist or pedestrian) from having access to legal representation if their injury claim is valued at under £2,000. That threshold is expected to be increased to £5,000 (in line with road accident claims) within a couple of years.

f) Require any such accident victim who wishes to instruct a solicitor to pay all legal costs out of their own compensation for injury claims of £2,000 or under (likely to later be increased to £5,000) . Neither the defendant nor their insurer will have to pay any of the claimant’s legal costs.

The benefits:

  1. You will see a £35 reduction in your motor insurance premiums:
    • Does anyone believe that?
    • Why has government not proposed to legislate to make sure the insurers make this happen?
    • Why has government more than doubled the tax on insurance premiums paid by the public in a few years (from 6% to 12.5%)?
    • Why are whiplash claims the main reason for bumping up insurance. Insurers have many other things to cost and the UK is not the ‘whiplash capital of Europe‘ as the insurers allege.
    • When these reforms were first proposed, the saving was £90 but has been slowly reducing the nearer the proposals get to enactment.
  2. Literally, there are no other benefits to the public (assuming #1 above can be considered a tangible benefit in the first place!).

The disadvantages:

  1. We will soon ALL lose the right to FAIR compensation if injured in an accident where the injury is not valued at more than £5,000. The government considers such claims to be ‘unnecessary’.
  2. We will ALL lose the ability to instruct a lawyer to represent us in such claims unless we pay them directly out of our compensation, which would be likely to make the claim unviable in the first place.
  3. We will ALL end up paying higher motor insurance premiums anyway. Many injury claims reforms have come in one after the other since 2010. The effect has been to significantly reduce the number and cost of claims over the last 5 years and still premiums have increased. The insurers will always find a reason other than their own greed/drive for profit as being the reason for ever-increasing premiums.  If whiplash claims really cost them that much, why do their profits increase year on year almost without fail!?

The questions:

  1. How do these reforms tackle fraud? They don’t. They just make it much harder for EVERYONE to make an injury claim. Hammer for nutshell.
  2. Is your right to legal representation to claim fair compensation for injuries caused by another’s negligence worth more than the mere promise of £35 per year off of your insurance? Hopefully, you’ll agree that it is.
  3. If so, why would the government/MoJ trade in your rights merely for such a vague and unenforceable promise from the insurers? The only conclusion can be that the government are doing it for their mates, for the few.

One thought on “The ‘whiplash’ reforms will injure us all

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