Boost: what they said, what they want to say and where do we go from here
Posted by Neil Rose, Editor-in-Chief, Legal futures
Even by government press release standards, the Justice Department’s (MoJ) announcement yesterday of the implementation of the whiplash reforms was a master class of deceptive propaganda.
Of course, the Justice Department was going to make the changes as positive as possible and it was depressing how mainstream media like the Press Association, the BBC and Sky News simply regurgitated the press release, with a bit additional comments from insurers. thrown in
It took the legal drafter Time give some space to the arguments of the claimant lobby; unfortunately, the day of the specialized legal correspondent in the national media is almost over.
Wouldn’t it have been nice to see the Bar in particular and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyer (APIL) trying to counter this inevitable drift? But I heard and saw not a peep. This is a dereliction of duty on the part of the Law Society, which strongly emphasizes access to justice issues in legal aid and the courts, but largely ignores bodily injury.
Let’s annotate the press release:
Motorists in England and Wales will save up to £ 35 a year on their insurance as new whiplash claims rules take effect today.
“Until” makes a LOT of great effort in this opening paragraph.
The changes are designed to reduce the unacceptably high number of whiplash claims made each year, to over 550,000 in 2019/20 alone, which will allow insurers to cut premiums for millions of drivers.
What is the “acceptable” number of whiplash claims?
The reforms include a new user-friendly online portal for road accident claims under £ 5,000 – simplifying the process and eliminating the need for expensive lawyers.
Read the 64 page user guide and tell me it’s user friendly if you don’t have an LLB after your name. As far as expensive lawyers go, of course, before 2013, plaintiffs did not have to bear their lawyers’ fees at all (and the fees were fixed anyway).
It was government policy that ended the recoverability of success fees and insurance after the event and meant that lawyers began to take a share (capped at 25%) of the damages received.
They also introduce a ban on settling whiplash cases without medical evidence – a practice that has opened the door to fraudulent or embellished claims.
This would not have been the case if the insurers had not made pre-medical offers. It is the Department of Justice that cleans up the mess of insurers.
Insurers have pledged to pass the savings these reforms will create to drivers, worth a total of £ 1.2 billion.
Unfortunately, we won’t know until 2024/2025 at the earliest whether this actually happened, through a legally required report from the Financial Conduct Authority – at that point the government won’t care. not for a long time.
Although the UK has some of the safest roads in Europe with fewer accidents reported year on year since 2013, road accident claims are over 40% higher than 2006.
RTA requests peaked in 2011 at over 800,000 and have declined year over year since to around 650,000.
The UK has the second safest roads in Europe, according to a RAC report last year, but a 2014 OECD study also showed the UK has 50% more cars per kilometer of road than the European average, with more than twice as many cars. cars per kilometer than in France.
APIL pointed out that with busier and more congested roads, low-speed crashes resulting in soft tissue injuries are more likely to occur than in other jurisdictions.
This has been fueled by a reported increase in exaggerated and often disproportionate claims, pushing up premium costs for ordinary motorists.
Lack of hard evidence has been a problem with the reform agenda from day one.
The government is committed to cracking down on this behavior and helping to lower the cost of insurance for drivers.
There is undoubtedly fraud and it will be less attractive with the new compensation tariff. But without guardian lawyers and such low compensation, how far will insurers push back minor claims? Will they just prefer to pay and move on?
I won’t go through the rest of the version but I will pull out a few more lines:
TThe majority of all ATR-related claims will now go through the cheaper small claims route, where legal fees are not recoverable.
With claims capable of entering, exiting and then re-entering small claims court to determine various issues, it might not prove to be cheaper for anyone if claimants are determined enough (although that is a big ‘if’). ).
A New Flat Rate for Rabbit Injury Compensation… provides claimants with a clear guide to the value of their injury when making their claim.
But if you also have injuries other than whiplash, then your problems are just beginning. The position of the Department of Justice is that it will be up to the courts to resolve this problem through test litigation.
Meanwhile, the increase in the road traffic accident small claims tracking limit means claimants with compensation assessed at less than £ 5,000 will be able to use the new portal – in most cases their saving court appearances, legal fees and costs.
The majority of cases did not go to court until yesterday anyway.
The new prices boost [ensure] this compensation is proportionate to the damage suffered.
Proportionate by what measure? Not that of justice, that’s for sure.
But the deed is done and the argument we have had for years is over. Claimants’ representatives undoubtedly brought the Jackson reforms on themselves to some extent, but their impact was not properly assessed before embarking on further reform.
The lack of ADR in the portal – which was originally a key part of really changing the process – is a failure the Justice Department, and indeed injured people, could still gravely regret.
This is undoubtedly a victory for the insurance lobby, but it must be careful before declaring yet a complete victory – claims could become more delicate and costly for them to deal with with the in-person litigants of the. other side.
Since the vast majority of claims are honest, the simple fact is that “success” requires that people with minor injuries be discouraged from filing a claim in the first place. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends a lot on where you sit.
We are therefore now waiting to see how the behavior of litigants, litigators, insurers and claims management companies evolve as a result.
Law firms such as Slater & Gordon believe most people will seek help navigating the portal – a significant number are already paying part of their compensation to have someone else file sales complaints. abuse with the financial mediator, and injury claims are much more difficult. to manage alone.
What we can say with certainty at this point is that this is not the end of the reform process. The focus will now be on the non-damaging elements of claims – such as repairs, credit leasing and rehabilitation – and the battle will resume once again.