APIL president criticises Civil Liability Bill saving pledge

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Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) president Brett Dixon has mocked the £35 ‘saving’ that the government and insurers put forward as the chief benefit of passing the Civil Liability Bill, pointing out that the “princely sum” off the cost of annual car insurance policies is tantamount to “a round of beers in the hotel bar”.

Speaking at APIL’s annual conference in Birmingham this morning, Dixon launched a scathing attack on the Civil Liability Bill, which promises to reform whiplash claims and change how the personal injury discount rate is calculated. It was the rate that attracted much of Dixon’s criticism.

He said: “Of course, the insurance industry sees it as perfectly correct to link whiplash reform with the discount rate, and to promise motorists a saving of about £35 a year on their insurance premiums. But, for me, it is fundamentally wrong to focus on the money. Injured people must be at the heart of this and must have access to the damages they need to put their lives back on track when they have been injured through no fault of their own.”

“There is almost nothing about this bill to commend it,” Dixon said, adding on the personal injury discount rate: “We want the discount rate to remain where it is [-0.75%] because that is the correct rate for people with life-altering injuries. We don’t yet know for sure what the outcome of parliamentary debate will be, and we are marshalling all our political resources for this battle.”

Dixon was highly critical of the government and the insurance industry—particularly for the way the Civil Liability Bill was sold to the general public.

He said: “The truth is that in the past four years the cost to motor insurers of bodily injury claims fell by 21 per cent and the average motor premium went up by 20 per cent. Those figures are, incidentally, from the Association of British Insurers.”

“But that cut in costs is clearly not enough. The insurers want more. And to get it, they are dangling in front of us the princely sum of £35 off the cost of our insurance premiums. £35. The cost of a round of beers in the hotel bar.”

The CEOs of 26 major insurers signed a pledge promising to pass on savings from the Civil Liability Bill to customers, at the same time as it was announced. The letter said: “We remain committed to the principle of 100% compensation for victims of catastrophic injury but we also want to see a modernised framework that is fair for everyone who buys insurance. If the government’s proposed changes are implemented, we believe this will deliver on this principle.”

Dixon added in his speech: “It is not unusual for money and big business to be placed ahead of truth and honesty, but that will never stop us working to make an impact on behalf of those we represent. The value of evidence—real evidence—may have been degraded in recent years, but we will not shirk from using evidence as a basis for telling the truth. And by that I mean the actual truth, not false arguments based on old news or facts taken out of context and distorted beyond all recognition.”

The government has made a concentrated effort to tackle what it calls the UK’s ”compensation culture”. It recently introduced the Civil Liability Bill, and plans to introduce a ban on cold calling and tougher regulation of claims management companies.

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk