Corries join Solicitors and Justice campaigners against the Government’s compensation plan to raise the small claims limit for road traffic victims and other measures which will affect most accident victims.
On 17 November 2016 the Ministry of Justice published its consultation paper. it is called Reforming the Soft Tissue Injury (‘Whiplash’) Claims Process
The government revealed there will be a public consultation in advance of new laws. The government blames a ‘predatory claims industry’ for ‘minor, exaggerated or fraudulent claims’ that have driven up the cost of motor premiums.
It also covers credit hire claims and the possibility of a tariff system for injuries. Compensation for whiplash injuries will be reduced from £1850 to £475.
The consultation paper proposes increasing the small claims limit for all personal injury cases from £1,000.00 to “at least £5,000.00.” The tone of the paper suggests that this has already been decided. We are concerned that the consultation is a done deal.
If approved then secondary legislation can bring in the changes. No act of Parliament will be needed.
The paper refers to using Medco independent expert evidence in small claims cases. This is not currently the case and shows the Government’s hurried and confused understanding of the process.
This proposal is wide spread so that if you suffer an accident at work then your rights to compensation are affected. This has nothing whatsoever to do with whiplash or motor insurance premiums.
The only way to interpret the proposals are to purposely leave accident victims with no lawyer. They will be left adrift. This leaves the door open for Claim Management Companies to step in.
The proposals will, in our opinion leave victims un represented or helped by non lawyers who will not fight the insurer or get you what you are rightfully due. The potential for fraud which is screened carefully by lawyers is likely to be increased.
The consultation is open until 6 January 2017, namely 50 days, including Christmas and the New Year period.
Corries are members of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). Brett Dixon, vice-president of APIL described the proposals as ‘heavy-handed and excessive’.
He added: ‘What you end up with in the small claims court where you have an insurer on the other side is that you are left alone in that room without representation and your opponent does have legal representation.
‘That leaves an injured person three options: represent themselves and hope that they are treated fairly by everybody; to pay for legal representation out of their damages, which if it’s reduced causes more of a problem; or simply not proceed and make a claim against someone who has negligently caused them an injury
“Despite government figures showing that the number of injury claims are down, they have allowed themselves to be bullied by insurers into reviving hugely unfair plans to remove access to justice for the injured, without producing a shred of evidence to justify them.
“Claims of a whiplash epidemic are unsubstantiated. It is astonishing the government has ignored that evidence, and has seen fit to use insurance industry propaganda on whiplash to take away access to justice from anyone who is injured, not just on the road but incredibly also those injured in the workplace. Data from the Association of British Insurers shows claims costs fell in 2015 – the fifth consecutive year of falling costs. These were more than 30% lower than in 2010. In effect the insurers have had a £8.73billion windfall over the last five years. And yet premiums have continued to rise.
Who will benefit
“Their pledges to pass savings on to motorists, off the back of the MoJ’s consultation announcement, are frankly not believable.
“The claims of a £40 reduction in premiums has no independent verification. The government has said (on 5 January 2016) that it ‘will not seek to intervene’. It describes this as ‘an intensely competitive market’ – despite the fact that just five insurance companies have over 52% market share.
“Instead of passing savings on to motorists, the insurers have paid eye-watering dividends and CEO pay. Mark Wilson, CEO of AVIVA, saw his pay increase to £5.67million in 2015 – up 118%. Dividends paid out by Admiral and Direct Line to shareholders have likewise increased £941 million in 2015 – up 114% in two years. All while motorists face ever higher premiums.
“If they go ahead, these government reforms will hit injury victims, on the roads and in the workplace, while lining the pockets of car insurer CEOs and their shareholders.”