First4Lawyers: Why it’s important to #RepairTheRightBody

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Talk is cheap and we’re now entering a crucial time if we’re to get the government to row back on the Civil Liability Bill, says Qamar Anwar of First4Lawyers

We’ve been overwhelmed by support for our campaign #RepairTheRightBody, which urges the personal injury community to take action against the Civil Liability Bill.

At the centre of the campaign is ‘Jane’, who suffers painful injuries as a result of an accident caused by a ‘boy racer’ but is left totally exposed by the government’s reforms. If you’ve not watched our animation yet, please take a look to see the stark reality for innocent road traffic victims. The message is clear: the government should not be allowed to get away with prioritising repairing damaged cars over the health of injury victims.

The bill had its second reading in the House of Lords last month and will next go into committee stage on 10 May, where it will be examined on a line-by-line basis, with peers able to table amendments. We’ll be watching this keenly.

I was heartened to hear some of the concerns already raised by peers in the House of Lords, which readers of Claims will have heard us raise before. Labour’s justice spokesman Lord Beecham said: “The question arises: why should comparable injuries not attract comparable awards, and comparable recovery of the cost of a claim, whether they are incurred in a road traffic accident or any other accident for which a defendant is deemed liable?”

He also raised multiple questions about where the evidence was to underpin the reform. Something we’ve long been questioning.

Yet Lord Keen, the Ministry of Justice spokesman for the House of Lords, did not change his tune. The debate saw general agreement that action was needed to curb fraudulent or exaggerated claims. Which we of course agree with, but we maintain that innocent road traffic accident victims should not be the ones to suffer as a result of any clampdown.

During the debate there was recognition that insurance companies should have done more to challenge claims in court. “There is a clear message for the insurance industry: it is about time it fought a few more cases,” said Conservative Lord Hayward. Lord Keen agreed that “insurers have been complicit in the development of this claims culture over the past 10 years or more in their willingness to avoid undue expense and simply to settle claims without the necessity for any form of real evidence”.

However, this is where claimant lawyers play such an important role—in helping to remove fraud through vigorous vetting. Opening up the system to litigants representing themselves removes any kind of vetting, and with insurers being reluctant to fight cases has the potential to open up the floodgates even further to abuse and fraudulent activity.

The insurance industry’s promise to pass on savings to consumers through lower motor premiums was also questioned, with Labour’s shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabati urging the government to explain “the teeth” behind the promise.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Lord Sharkey added: “I am not convinced by the government’s touching faith in the insurance industry…”

“I would like to see a healthier scepticism on the part of the government and, if need be, a clear statement that if savings are not passed on to policyholders then the industry may be subjected to a tax penalty on a windfall saving.”

Yet, talk is cheap and we’re now entering a crucial time if we’re to get the government to row back on these reforms.

That’s why we have launched our #RepairTheRightBody campaign encouraging consumers to contact their MPs about these unfair reforms. Look out for the hashtag #RepairTheRightBody across social media and if you haven’t already, visit our campaign pages to find out more about the campaign.

Find out how you can support the campaign and help to stop the unfair changes.

Qamar Anwar is managing director at First4Lawyers

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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