Small claims whiplash reforms delayed until 2020

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The government has delayed the introduction of some of its controversial whiplash reforms until April 2020.

The delay was confirmed in the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) response to the Justice Select Committee’s concerns over the effect that the whiplash reforms will have on access to justice.

A key part of the government’s whiplash reform package, designed to clamp down on the so-called ‘compensation culture’, promises to increase the small claims limit for personal injury and road traffic accident claims.

The increases, from £1,000 to £2,000 for personal injury and to £5,000 for road traffic accident claims, are separate from the Civil Liability Bill and will be brought in via secondary legislation, with aim of becoming live in April 2019.

Speaking in May, Justice Select Committee chair Bob Neill MP said the rises, as well as the introduction of an online platform to manage small personal injury and road traffic accident claims, would impede access to justice.

In response, the MoJ said: “The government is acutely aware that the proposed approach will fundamentally transform how whiplash claims are handled and that any concerns around access to justice have to be addressed promptly. There will need to be extensive user testing in order to ensure that the system is easy to use for all user groups and that the guidance is clear. We agree with the committee and our stakeholders that it is crucial that these reforms and the implementation of the online platform is done right rather than quickly. This is why the Government is now proposing for the platform to be ready for large-scale testing by October 2019 with the view to implementing the whiplash measures, including the rise in the small claims limit to £5,000, fully in April 2020.”

But the government does remain committed to introducing its whiplash reform package, with the MoJ adding: “The government is committed to control the reducing the number and costs of whiplash claims. These reforms ensure genuine claimants will continue to receive proportionate compensation for their injury and importantly will also dis-incentivise and control unmeritorious claims.”

The Civil Liability Bill’s introduction also looks likely to be delayed, with no date set for its second reading in the House of Commons.

A motion on bringing forward the summer recess will be voted on today, and could see MPs going on holiday early. They will return in September.

Vidisha Joshi, managing partner of law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said of the delay: “The government’s reform agenda is in disarray and rightly so. These reforms are one-sided and ill-thought out. The proposed changes are unnecessary; the data shows that fraudulent claims have been decreasing as well as the overall number of claims.”

“The government should use the delay as an opportunity to take stock, properly examine this data and the impact on innocent people who need advocates to act in their best interests and call the insurers out on their misleading information about the so-called ‘claims culture’.”

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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