Whiplash reforms coming in April 2019

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The UK government plans to introduce its whiplash reforms in April 2019.

A statement from the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) said that ministers have decided that the initial focus of the whiplash reforms will be on introducing changes related to road traffic accident (RTA) claims.

Further personal injury reforms are expected to come later.

The Civil Liability Bill has yet to be published, although this could happen soon if the government’s April 2019 aim is to be met.

The bill will be implemented at the same time as the new £5,000 limit for RTA claims. This will be brought in with secondary legislation.

The whiplash reforms package also includes a fixed tariff system for soft tissue injury.

MASS chair Simon Stanfield said the society will continue to fight the proposed whiplash reforms, while casting doubt on whether the government could hit its April 2019 target.

“[If] Parliament approves the plans and they do proceed, there are still huge questions about how it would be implemented, operated and how the worst consequences can be limited,” he said.

Senior partner of London law firm, Hodge Jones & Allen, Patrick Allen, who is a former president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, which was involved in the meeting with MASS and government officials, said: “These reforms are misconceived and we will continue to oppose them at every stage. At the very least, the government should wait to see the report of the Justice Select Committee following its evidence gathering session in January.”

“The reforms will put significant impediments in the way of claimants seeking justice for smaller personal injury claims and would appear to be caught by the Supreme Court’s statement in last July’s Unison case that, without unimpeded access to justice, the democratic process was in danger of becoming ‘a meaningless charade’.”

“Therefore the government may struggle to persuade Parliament or the courts that the proposed reforms are lawful.”

Deborah Newberry, head of public affairs at Kennedys, commented: “While Brexit is likely to continue to frame domestic law making, it is reassuring that the government has found the political energy to advance the domestic agenda and continue the process begun by LASPO.”

“For compensators, including insurers, the uncertainty around the Civil Liability Bill has understandably been a source of considerable frustration—compounded by the uncertainty around the domestic reform agenda more broadly and the UK’s exit from the EU.”

“While the bill details are awaited, it is fair to assume that the government has reached the sensible conclusion that the measures in the bill should run in tandem with the whiplash-related proposals to introduce (and increase) two small claims thresholds. This will help allow compensators to properly prepare not only for the reforms, but for their consequences.”

Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4lawyers, said: “It is disappointing, although not surprising, to hear that the government plans to press ahead with the Civil Liability Bill next year. However, we are undeterred and will continue to fight these unjust proposals.”

“It is crucial that the claimant personal injury market comes together to fight the false premise on which these proposals are based. The new justice secretary must not roll over and take the insurance industry’s propaganda at face value.”

“We hope he will instigate a meaningful and honest debate about what is right and wrong about how personal injury victims are treated, the way in which insurers operate and the importance of the whole sector coming together to stamp out fraud. It is long overdue.”

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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